Internally-driven change and feature correspondence in object representation: A key to children's essentialism?
Two experiments were run to investigate how preschoolers use the pattern of an object's change as a cue to noticing correlations among the object's subsequent features. Four-year-old children were familiarized with either an internally or externally-driven transformation of an object, and tested for identification of an animation that did not match the familiar sequence of the object's features. In both experiments children in the internal-change group identified the incorrect sequence significantly more quickly than in the external-change condition. These results strongly suggest that perception of internally-driven transformation facilitates the formation of and/or access to a representation of correspondences between subsequent features of an object. The possible role of this mechanism in essentialist thinking is discussed at the end of the paper.