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Cognition. 2009 Apr;111(1):138-43. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2009.01.001. Epub 2009 Feb 5.

The human function compunction: teleological explanation in adults.

Author information

  • 1Boston University, Department of Psychology, 64 Cummington Street, Boston, MA 02215, USA. dkelemen@bu.edu

Abstract

Research has found that children possess a broad bias in favor of teleological--or purpose-based--explanations of natural phenomena. The current two experiments explored whether adults implicitly possess a similar bias. In Study 1, undergraduates judged a series of statements as "good" (i.e., correct) or "bad" (i.e., incorrect) explanations for why different phenomena occur. Judgments occurred in one of three conditions: fast speeded, moderately speeded, or unspeeded. Participants in speeded conditions judged significantly more scientifically unwarranted teleological explanations as correct (e.g., "the sun radiates heat because warmth nurtures life"), but were not more error-prone on control items (e.g., unwarranted physical explanations such as "hills form because floodwater freezes"). Study 2 extended these findings by examining the relationship between different aspects of adults' "promiscuous teleology" and other variables such as scientific knowledge, religious beliefs, and inhibitory control. Implications of these findings for scientific literacy are discussed.

PMID:
19200537
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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