Cultural continuity and variation in the development of folk ecological reasoning
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The objective of two studies was to investigate cultural variation and continuity in how children understand ecological relationships. We examined children's beliefs about their local ecology and humans' place within that system in a Western (urban American city) and a Non-Western community (Tanna, Vanuatu). Study 1 used a species relation task to examine children’s cultural concepts of the natural world (N = 97, 5-13-year-olds). Results indicate that children in the U.S. provide a greater number of taxonomic responses than children in Vanuatu. Children in Vanuatu provide a greater number of ecological and utility responses than children in the U.S. Older children also provided a greater number of ecological responses than younger children across both cultural contexts. Study 2 used a nature categorization task (N = 106, 6-11-year-olds), in which children sorted 12 pictures of natural kinds into groups. Results revealed cross-cultural similarities in how natural kinds were organized and also show that children in the U.S. were more likely than children in Vanuatu to categorize the human into a group with another animal. Data from both Studies 1 and 2 are consistent with the proposal that how children understand the ecology of their local environment is heavily influenced by how they interact with it, and the kinds of ecological relationships that are emphasized within diverse cultural contexts.