Plausible Explanations: Magical Causal Explanations in Preschoolers
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The literature has repeatedly shown that children believe in magic and can distinguish between fantasy and reality (Browne & Woolley, 2004; Harris et al,1991; Phelps & Woolley, 1994; Sharon & Woolley, 2004; Subkotsky, 2001; Taylor & Carlson, 1997; Woolley et al, 2004; Woolley et al, 2006; Woolley & Van Reet, 2006). However, very little research has been done on the context of magical thinking, specifically how children use magic to reason causally. The present study explored magical causal explanations in 32 preschoolers, broken into 16 3 year-olds and 16 4 year-olds. Children saw blocks activate a special toy either working by contact or at a distance and were then asked to categorize whether the event was magic or electric. They were then asked to activate the toy themselves and then to correct the experimenter’s failed action. Children fell into one of three categories. They were either Inconsistent in their categorizations, Consistent One Responders, or Consistent Discriminators. Consistent Discriminators chose distance as magic and contact as electric. These children also discriminated in their action, using distance for magic. There was also an effect of age on children’s use of magic. Older children were more likely to invoke magic as an explanation.
Preschool; Magic; Causal Reasoning
dissertation or thesis