Although children were generally inflexible as to the

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Although children were generally inflexible as to the conscious breach of ritualistic actions, the oldest children were more flexible in considering the outcome of the action, even if done incorrectly. This tendency may reflect a similar trajectory to children’s belief in prayer. In other words, prioritizing the intentionality of the ritual actor over the ritual actions may reflect a changing understanding of the role of mental–physical causality. Importantly, these findings suggest that children’s early understanding of rituals builds on their belief in causality; that effects have causes (e.g., being “saved” is the result of some kind of action) and that causes have effects (e.g., ritual actions produce a cause, even if it is invisible). 12.4 Psychological Essentialism and Dualism Developmental research into cognitive foundations of the concept of the soul recently has received an increasing amount of attention. Bloom (2004) has argued early animacy and inanimacy distinctions by infants develop into a dualistic under- standing of humans consisting of distinct and separate bodies and minds. How- ever, as is outlined below, dualistic explanations of a mind/body distinction have often grouped together the concepts of the mind and the soul. Recent research has addressed whether and at what ages children begin to differentiate a third aspect of humanness: the soul. 12.4.1 Soul In two experiments, Richert and Harris (2006) disentangled children’s developing concept of the soul, with a particular emphasis on its differentiation from the mind
190 R.A. Richert and E.I. Smith and the body. In the first experiment, children from Lutheran churches between 4- and 12-years old were asked to consider what changes occur as a result of bap- tism. Specifically, children were asked if there was internal or external change, in other words if the change could be seen and/or touched. Additionally, children were asked to consider if the baptism was associated with changes in the brain, mind, and/or soul. Children provided more theologically correct answers with age (e.g., baptism resulting in an internal change that cannot be seen or touched). Moreover, children of all ages were much more likely to claim that the soul changes after bap- tism, compared to the brain or the mind. A second experiment examined more specifically how children differentiate the soul, mind, and brain. First, third, and fifth graders from Catholic schools were asked to think about the brain, mind, and soul of a newborn baby. Although many of the youngest children believed that a newborn baby had a soul, the older children were even more likely to agree with that statement. Additionally, although the younger children agreed a baby would not be the same without her or his brain, mind, or soul, the belief that individuals would not be the same without their soul was strongest for the oldest children (Richert and Harris 2006).

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