Friday, December 21, 2007

Children attributing causality - extension to religious and political imitation.

Blog reader Rick Thomas makes a brief comment on the previous post on children attributing causality (a comment I wish I had made), that is sufficiently pungent to bring into a post where more people will note it:
" Fascinating. I guess the effect will extend to adult religious and political imitation as well."

Even though the experiments of Lyons et al. mentioned in the previous post deal with imitation of mechanical sequences, the same tenacious and irrational attribution of causality might explain why people find it so difficult to overcome habits instilled by their early religious and political environment.


  1. It seems a reasonable leap from imitation of mechanical sequences to imitiation of general behavioral patterns. The authors suggest this:

    "... overimitation may actually increase from infancy to early childhood as socially derived inferences begin to play a larger role in causal learning."

    And religious and political behavior meets these prerequisites easily:

    "... an adult’s actions may need to be more than simply intentional for children to encode them as causally meaningful; the qualities of being both unconstrained (i.e., not determined or limited by external factors) and potentially communicative or pedagogical in nature may also be prerequisites."

    Given individual differences along the lines of open-mindedness and fixity of belief, I wonder how education can buffer this effect.

    When is the child ready to learn the concept of science, and test his/her received causal meanings?
    How can we teach early science through imitiation?
    Would that lesson be harmfully subject to overimitiation?

  2. This is interesting. Is anyone here aware of any longitudinal studies comparing children's political and religious affiliations to their parents and the extent to which they diverge over time and factors that might influence that divergence?

  3. why the addiction to the concept of causality for anyone, young or old, scientist or layman? it is only an artifact of mind and has nothing to do with reality... the buddhists are much closer with their concept of "no independent origination" .... science has to cut apart wholeness with every step it takes, so childish, in the larger scheme of things