THE DEVELOPMENT OF CHILDREN'S PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL CAUSAL EXPLANATIONS
A review of the developmental causality literature revealed several oversights on the part of theorists and researchers alike. First, many theorists appeared to take the equivalence of physical and psychological causal explanations for granted: they assumed that the same process underlay both causal domains. Second, even if the distinction was made on a theoretical level, researchers did not attempt to verify potential differences between these two domains. Third, researchers did not compare the developmental changes in physical and psychological explanations. The present research is an exploratory attempt to examine the relationship between physical and psychological causal explanations across three age groups.;Three age groups of subjects (4 and 5 year olds, 7 and 8 year olds and adults) were asked to answer questions derived from Piaget's work on physical causality. This involved giving explanations for natural and mechanical phenomena and identifying animate and inanimate objects. Each individual also viewed the Heider-Simmel film and offered a retrospective narrative of the film's contents. This narrative was coded for utilization of motives and intentions, for organization and for memory accuracy. All of the protocals were rated by three judges and relatively high inter-judge consistency were obtained.;Analyses examined mean age group differences across the various dependent measures. In support of earlier research, it was noted that as the individual's age increased, one found an increased employment of motives and intentions in understanding the Heider-Simmel film, an increased use of mechanical principles in understanding the Piagetian causality questions and a clearer conception of biological life. The data from each age-group was factor analyzed separately using a varimax rotation. The three resultant factor structures were then compared for similarity. This analysis revealed that at the youngest age level, physical and psychological events appeared to be separate factors. Furthermore, there appears to be an increased differentiation of these concepts over time. The results seem to also point out the qualitative differences between adulthood animism and childhood animism. The adults used animism as a metaphor while the child did not. The overall results are interpreted in terms of Werner's theory of development.
Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 44-01, Section: B, page: 3630.