Rethinking people's conceptions of mental life
PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
2017; 114 (43): 11374–79
How do people make sense of the emotions, sensations, and cognitive abilities that make up mental life? Pioneering work on the dimensions of mind perception has been interpreted as evidence that people consider mental life to have two core components-experience (e.g., hunger, joy) and agency (e.g., planning, self-control) [Gray HM, et al. (2007) Science 315:619]. We argue that this conclusion is premature: The experience-agency framework may capture people's understanding of the differences among different beings (e.g., dogs, humans, robots, God) but not how people parse mental life itself. Inspired by Gray et al.'s bottom-up approach, we conducted four large-scale studies designed to assess people's conceptions of mental life more directly. This led to the discovery of an organization that differs strikingly from the experience-agency framework: Instead of a broad distinction between experience and agency, our studies consistently revealed three fundamental components of mental life-suites of capacities related to the body, the heart, and the mind-with each component encompassing related aspects of both experience and agency. This body-heart-mind framework distinguishes itself from Gray et al.'s experience-agency framework by its clear and importantly different implications for dehumanization, moral reasoning, and other important social phenomena.
View details for PubMedID 29073059
Theory-based explanation as intervention.
Psychonomic bulletin & review
Cogent explanations are an indispensable means of providing new information and an essential component of effective education. Beyond this, we argue that there is tremendous untapped potential in using explanations to motivate behavior change. In this article we focus on health interventions. We review four case studies that used carefully tailored explanations to address gaps and misconceptions in people's intuitive theories, providing participants with a conceptual framework for understanding how and why some recommended behavior is an effective way of achieving a health goal. These case studies targeted a variety of health-promoting behaviors: (1) children washing their hands to prevent viral epidemics; (2) parents vaccinating their children to stem the resurgence of infectious diseases; (3) adults completing the full course of an antibiotic prescription to reduce antibiotic resistance; and (4) children eating a variety of healthy foods to improve unhealthy diets. Simply telling people to engage in these behaviors has been largely ineffective-if anything, concern about these issues is mounting. But in each case, teaching participants coherent explanatory frameworks for understanding health recommendations has shown great promise, with such theory-based explanations outperforming state-of-the-art interventions from national health authorities. We contrast theory-based explanations both with simply listing facts, information, and advice and with providing a full-blown educational curriculum, and argue for providing the minimum amount of information required to understand the causal link between a target behavior and a health outcome. We argue that such theory-based explanations lend people the motivation and confidence to act on their new understanding.
View details for DOI 10.3758/s13423-016-1207-2
View details for PubMedID 28097604
- Young Children Choose to Inform Previously Knowledgeable Others JOURNAL OF COGNITION AND DEVELOPMENT 2016; 17 (2): 320-340
- Young children's automatic encoding of social categories DEVELOPMENTAL SCIENCE 2015; 18 (6): 1036-1043
Children Associate Racial Groups With Wealth: Evidence From South Africa
2012; 83 (6): 1884-1899
Group-based social hierarchies exist in nearly every society, yet little is known about whether children understand that they exist. The present studies investigated whether 3- to 10-year-old children (N=84) in South Africa associate higher status racial groups with higher levels of wealth, one indicator of social status. Children matched higher value belongings with White people more often than with multiracial or Black people and with multiracial people more often than with Black people, thus showing sensitivity to the de facto racial hierarchy in their society. There were no age-related changes in children's tendency to associate racial groups with wealth differences. The implications of these results are discussed in light of the general tendency for people to legitimize and perpetuate the status quo.
View details for DOI 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01819.x
View details for Web of Science ID 000314111900004
View details for PubMedID 22860510