Inferring design: Evidence of a preference for teleological explanations in patients with Alzheimer's disease

Tania Lombrozo, Deborah Kelemen, Deborah Zaitchik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

87 Scopus citations

Abstract

Unlike educated adults, young children demonstrate a " promiscuous" tendency to explain objects and phenomena by reference to functions, endorsing what are called teleological explanations. This tendency becomes more selective as children acquire increasingly coherent beliefs about causal mechanisms, but it is unknown whether a widespread preference for teleology is ever truly outgrown. The study reported here investigated this question by examining explanatory judgments in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD), whose dementia affects the rich causal beliefs adults typically consult in evaluating explanations. The results indicate that unlike healthy adults, AD patients systematically and promiscuously prefer teleological explanations, suggesting that an underlying tendency to construe the world in terms of functions persists throughout life. This finding has broad relevance not only to understanding conceptual impairments in AD, but also to theories of development, learning, and conceptual change. Moreover, this finding sheds light on the intuitive appeal of creationism. ©

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)999-1006
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Science
Volume18
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)

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