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  • Children and adults selectively generalize mechanistic knowledge. Cognition Chuey, A. n., Lockhart, K. n., Sheskin, M. n., Keil, F. n. 2020; 199: 104231


    A central component of evaluating others as sources of information involves estimating how much they know about different domains: one might be quite knowledgeable about a certain domain (e.g., clocks), but relatively ignorant about another (e.g., birds). Estimating one's domain knowledge often involves making inferences from specific instances or demonstrations, with some suggesting broader knowledge than others. For instance, an American who demonstrates knowledge of an unfamiliar country like Djibouti likely knows more about geography as a whole compared to an American who demonstrates knowledge of a more familiar country like Canada. The current studies investigate the extent to which one potentially salient kind of knowledge - mechanistic knowledge - signals greater domain knowledge as a whole. Across four developmental studies, we find that both adults and children as young as six think that those who possess mechanistic knowledge about a basic level artifact category (e.g., clocks) are more knowledgeable about its superordinate level category (e.g., machines) than those with factual non-mechanistic knowledge (Studies 1a and 2a). We also find an analogous, yet delayed pattern with biological categories (Studies 1b and 2b). Together, these studies demonstrate that even young children, who possess little mechanistic knowledge themselves, nevertheless have a sophisticated sense of how knowledge of mechanism generalizes across related categories.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104231

    View details for PubMedID 32092550

  • The Privileged Status of Knowing Mechanistic Information: An Early Epistemic Bias CHILD DEVELOPMENT Lockhart, K. L., Chuey, A., Kerr, S., Keil, F. C. 2019; 90 (5): 1772–88


    Four studies with 180 5-7 year olds, 165 8-11 year olds and 199 adults show that young children appreciate the distinctive role played by mechanistic explanations in tracking causal patterns. Young children attributed greater knowledge to individuals offering mechanistic reasons for a claim than others who provide equally detailed nonmechanistic reasons. In Study 1, 5-7 year olds attributed greater knowledge to those offering mechanistic reasons. In Studies 2 and 3, all ages (5-7 and adults for Study 2; 5-7, 8-11 and adults for Study 3) assigned greater knowledge to those offering mechanistic reasons about causally central features than those offering nonmechanistic reasons. In Study 4, all ages (5-7, 8-11, adults) modulated the epistemic bias as a function of embedding goals.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/cdev.13246

    View details for Web of Science ID 000486524600029

    View details for PubMedID 31106424