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Friday, October 3, 2014 - 12:00pm

IRCS Conference Room

Frank Keil
Department of Psychology
Yale University

The Growth of Explanatory Insight: Causal Understanding and the Outsourced Mind

Despite having highly impoverished understandings of the world at the mechanistic level, children and adults alike have strong interests in mechanistic explanations. These seemingly futile interests in mechanisms may in fact support the development of everyday understandings by enabling even the very young to build a sense of causal patterns that exist far above the level of mechanisms. That sense of causal patterns then works in combination with strategies for identifying and evaluating both experts and their explanations, enabling lay people of all ages to supplement their highly incomplete knowledge by accessing and relying on the divisions of cognitive labor that exist in all cultures. Illusions of explanatory depth and insight, as well as biases concerning distribution of knowledge across minds, create a false impression of the nature of folk science. Studies on the development of folk science in children, however, offer a more cognitively feasible account for all ages and levels of expertise.