Explaining Constrains Causal Learning in Childhood

Caren M. Walker, Tania Lombrozo, Joseph J. Williams, Anna N. Rafferty, Alison Gopnik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

Three experiments investigate how self-generated explanation influences children's causal learning. Five-year-olds (N = 114) observed data consistent with two hypotheses and were prompted to explain or to report each observation. In Study 1, when making novel generalizations, explainers were more likely to favor the hypothesis that accounted for more observations. In Study 2, explainers favored a hypothesis that was consistent with prior knowledge. Study 3 pitted a hypothesis that accounted for more observations against a hypothesis consistent with prior knowledge. Explainers were more likely to base generalizations on prior knowledge. Findings suggest that attempts to explain drive children to evaluate hypotheses using features of “good” explanations, or those supporting generalizations with broad scope, as informed by children's prior knowledge and observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-246
Number of pages18
JournalChild development
Volume88
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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