Children’s Beliefs About Causes of Human Characteristics


Summary: Children’s Beliefs About Causes of Human Characteristics 

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Children’s Beliefs About Causes of Human Characteristics 


Genetic variation is a key determinant of human differences brought about by migration, mutation, and recombination. In essence, genetic variation arises from changes in genes and gene frequencies among different populations, making it a core aspect that requires explicit understanding. In the study undertaken by Meyer et al. (2020), the researchers explore children’s understanding of human differences and genetic explanations. The authors postulated that whereas older children and adults have substantial understanding pertaining to genetic differences, younger children lacked a robust apprehension, particularly the environment-based and choice-based explanations. As a result, the researchers established valid findings to prove how genetic attributions emerge from an early age and the noticeable changes since childhood. The sum of the entire findings by the researchers leads the reader to comprehend the genetic differences and variations that result in individual human differences, conceptual development, and genetic attributions. The findings assist young children in garnering a robust understanding of how genetic factors contribute to distinct personalities, behaviours, and abilities. 

 The concept of genetic variation has long been a perennial concern among individuals as it is pivotal in understanding its role in explaining human characteristics. The researchers’ primary focus was to determine children’s understanding of the role of genes, specifically, genetic attributions, in determining human differences and variation. Furthermore, the researchers noted that most people have certain perceptions of particular characteristics caused by genes rather than personal choices or external attributes. Fundamentally, they deemed it significant to comprehend to what extent children can explain personal differences concerning genetic variation to understand how genes influence human behaviour and characteristics, including intelligence and motivation (Meyer et al., 2020). With the intent of arriving at solid findings, the choice of subjects, which include children ranging from elementary school to early middle school, aged between seven and thirteen, was appropriate. 

Similarly, open-ended questions allowed the participants to provide detailed answers, deeper sentiments, and opinions and offer a wide range of responses. The decision of not acquiring the children’s demographic information decreased the likelihood of bias, thus increasing the validity of the participants’ responses. Besides, ethical standards were upheld throughout the research study, which enabled the researchers to attain the aims of the study, avoid error occurrence and promote moral values, including not harming the subjects. 

The researchers arrived at several findings to determine the extent to which children understand the role of genes across human development. One of the key findings was that both adults and children were cognizant of the role of genes as a fundamental attribute to the majority of human characteristics. For instance, both populations incorporated genetic explanations and variation as a major contributor to height (Meyer et al., 2020). Although adults preferred to inscribe gene explanation to intelligence and athleticism, children preferred to associate the environment and choice-based factors to athleticism and intelligence. These presented significant differences in the level of understanding of genetic influence. In addition, the researchers concluded that such differences arose from various possible factors such as psychological essentialism. This relates to how psychological essentialism arises from childhood thus impacts variable explanations towards human characteristics. This finding resulted from a majority of the participants attributing their reasoning to essentialist concepts.

Notably, several individual differences were heavily influenced by genetics. Such differences were closely linked to the growing exposure to genes such as individual variation of personality and intelligence. The researchers provided valid explanations such as children’s early exposure to genes in a home setting, where parents or guardians try to ingrain certain beliefs. There was a substantial shift of both populations from childhood to adulthood and individual genetic explanations, in contrast to children preferring environmental and choice explanations. In conclusion, the research study was highly significant to increase the need of understanding children’s beliefs as to how they relate the role of genes towards human characteristics and development. The findings were accurate and valid enough, leaving the reader with a better and explicit understanding of the determinants that contribute to adults’ and children’s viewpoints concerning the ability of genetic attributions. 



Meyer, M., Roberts, S. O., Jayaratne, T. E., & Gelman, S. A. (2020). Children’s beliefs about causes of human characteristics: Genes, environment, or choice?. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General149(10), 1935.




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