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Psychol Sci. 2004 May;15(5):295-301.

Are children "intuitive theists"? Reasoning about purpose and design in nature.

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Department of Psychology, Boston University, MA 02215, USA.


Separate bodies of research suggest that young children have a broad tendency to reason about natural phenomena in terms of purpose and an orientation toward intention-based accounts of the origins of natural entities. This article explores these results further by drawing together recent findings from various areas of cognitive developmental research to address the following question: Rather than being "artificialists" in Piagetian terms, are children "intuitive theists"-disposed to view natural phenomena as resulting from nonhuman design? A review of research on children's concepts of agency, imaginary companions, and understanding of artifacts suggests that by the time children are around 5 years of age, this description of them may have explanatory value and practical relevance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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