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What does it mean to be �alive�? How our notions of the natural world unfold across cultures, languages and development

Sandy Waxman

Tuesday, April 24, 2007, 01:00pm - 02:00pm

Northwestern University, Department of Psychology

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How do our most fundamental concepts of the natural world concepts such as living thing, animal, and human --unfold? Until recently, psychological research in this arena focused almost exclusively on children from urban, technologically-advanced communities. But to discover which notions of the natural world (if any) are universal and how they are shaped by experience, we have adopted a broader view, asking how young children and adults from diverse cultural and language communities understand the natural world, and how their understanding is influenced by their language and belief systems. In the face of some striking cross-cultural and cross-linguistic differences, we also find profound commonalities. In this talk, I will consider how core knowledge (e.g., animacy) may support the early acquisition of biological concepts and how the language and belief systems in which we are immersed shape this acquisition.

Sandy Waxman