Monday, January 30, 2012

Do kids have to be taught about the supernatural? - Thomas Rees - [epiphenom] the science of religion and non-belief

One of the big questions about our supernatural instincts is to what degree they are innate, and to what degree they are learned. While there is some evidence that kids are born with a instinctive belief in omniscience beings, other evidence suggests the exact opposite.

Here's a new study by Ashley King, a grad student at the University of Arizona. She ran a group of 124 children aged 4-8 through a carefully designed study designed to see whether they understood what supernatural omniscience is.

The basic set-up has been used in previous studies. Half the kids were shown a video of someone calling herself "Princess Alice" who said she had special invisible powers and would be present through the whole ensuing test. The other half were just shown a video of the same person wearing jeans and t-shirt who simply welcomed them and said she was a friend.

After a few other tests, they were given a puzzle by the experimenter. Basically, this involved some numbers hidden on the bottom of wooden blocks that were shown to the child and shuffled behind a screen. The child then had to guess where the different numbers were - an impossible task of course.
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