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Gopnik, Alison. The Child as Scientist
1996, Philosophy of Science 63 (4):485-514
Added by: Andrea Blomqvist

Abstract: This paper argues that there are powerful similarities between cognitive development in children and scientific theory change. These similarities are best explained by postulating an underlying abstract set of rules and representations that underwrite both types of cognitive abilities. In fact, science may be successful largely because it exploits powerful and flexible cognitive devices that were designed by evolution to facilitate learning in young children. Both science and cognitive development involve abstract, coherent systems of entities and rules, theories. In both cases, theories provide predictions, explanations, and interpretations. In both, theories change in characteristic ways in response to counterevidence. These ideas are illustrated by an account of children’s developing understanding of the mind.

Comment: In the mindreading debate, this is one of the main papers arguing for Theory Theory. It offers a good introduction of the theory as well as empirical support. It is suitable in a second or third year module on social cognition.

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