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Title:A general explanatory tendency underlies common assumptions about how the world works: an investigation of nominal fit and essentialist beliefs
Author(s):Sutherland, Shelbie
Director of Research:Cimpian, Andrei
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Cimpian, Andrei
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Baillargeon, Renée; Fisher, Cynthia; Benjamin, Aaron; Hummel, John
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
inherence heuristic
nominal fit
conceptual development
Abstract:People are constantly making sense of their environment, explaining a wide variety of events and facts that they encounter. Often, these explanations are the product of a heuristic process that relies on highly accessible information to make sense of a phenomenon (Cimpian & Salomon, 2014a, 2014b; Thomas, Dougherty, Sprenger, & Harbison, 2008). Importantly, highly accessible information is often skewed to include features inherent to that which is being reasoned about, without reference to external impact or happenstance. Because of this bias in highly accessible information, generating explanations heuristically has downstream consequences for the beliefs people hold about the way the world works. Here, I focus on two beliefs that I propose are underlain by inherent reasoning. In Part 1, six studies provide evidence that children's and adults' inherent reasoning promotes a belief that words and their referents are not arbitrarily paired but rather "fit" particularly well together (nominal fit). In Part 2, I provide evidence across three studies that inherent reasoning may also play a role in the development of essentialist beliefs. Overall, this work suggests that general inherent reasoning buttresses disparate beliefs about the way the world works. These findings highlight the value in investigating the ways in which abstract, higher-order judgments and beliefs are shaped by basic cognitive processes.
Issue Date:2016-06-27
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Shelbie Sutherland
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-11-10
Date Deposited:2016-08

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