The Child’s Pantheon: Children’s Hierarchical Belief Structure in Real and Non-Real figures

15th January 2019 : 17:00 - 18:30

Category: Seminar

Speaker: Dr Rohan Kapitany (School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford)

Location: Seminar Room E, 15 Norham Gardens, Department for Education

A part of the Child Development and Learning (CDL) seminar series

Children must navigate a world that they are largely yet to experience, and in so doing, must evaluate and anticipate claims about things they may never directly encounter. Dr Rohan Katpitany is particularly interested in how children come to understand the reality-status of natural, supernatural, religious, and fictional figures. Given that children are exposed to many different kinds of information regarding those that ostensibly live in this same universe, the question he will discuss is how do children draw conclusions about the reality of figures such as dinosaurs, aliens, Princess Elsa, Santa Claus, or ghosts? He will present data from two studies collected in Australia, the UK, and Europe, that supports the existence of a ‘Child’s Pantheon’, a nuanced, sensible, and hierarchical model of real and non-real figures. This Pantheon is not an explicit construct in the mind of the child, but rather is a statistically discernible pattern of belief in which figures with certain characteristics are grouped with similar others. This Pantheon is the summative result of multiple forms of testimony and experience that children have, and neatly conforms with predictions made in the field of cultural evolution and the literature on developmental psychology.