How kids understand the relationship between human and other animals

May 18th, 2010 - 1:15 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 18 (ANI): It has long been believed that as children begin reasoning about the biological world, they adopt an ‘anthropocentric’ stance, favouring humans over non-human animals when it comes to learning about properties of animals. Now, a new study from Northwestern University researchers has challenged this long-held assumption.

In two experiments, Patricia Herrmann, Sandra R. Waxman and Douglas L. Medin in the psychology department in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences examined the reasoning patterns of children as young as three years of age.

They found that although 5-year-olds adopted an anthropocentric perspective, 3-year-olds showed no hint of anthropocentrism.

This outcome suggests a new model of development: Human-centered reasoning is not an obligatory starting point for development, as researchers and educators had previously assumed.

Instead, it is an acquired perspective, one that emerges between three and five years of age in children raised in urban environments and one that likely reflects young children’s keen sensitivity to the perspectives that are presented to them, however informally, within their communities and in the media for young children.

The researchers say that perhaps most importantly, this new evidence has strong and direct implications for early science education.

“If young children’s fundamental perspectives on the biological world — and the place of humans within it — are sensitive to the experiences, beliefs and practices of their communities, then by the time they enter school, children from different backgrounds may harbour different perspectives,” said Waxman.

“If we are to design more effective science curricula, then it is incumbent upon us to understand the diverse perspectives that even the very youngest children bring with them as they enter their classrooms,” Waxman added.

The results have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences May 17. (ANI)

Related Stories

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Health Science |