Children's Theories and the Drive to Explain
Eric Schwitzgebel

Science & Eduction, 8 (1999), 457-488.


Debate has been growing in developmental psychology over how much the cognitive development of children is like theory change in science. Useful debate on this topic requires a clear understanding of what it would be like for a child to have a theory. I argue that existing accounts of theories within philosophy of science and developmental psychology either are less precise than is ideal for the task or cannot capture everyday theorizing of the sort that children, if they theorize, must do. I then propose an account of theories that ties theories and explanation very closely together, treating theories primarily as products of a drive to explain. I clarify some of the positions people have taken regarding the "theory theory" of development, and I conclude by proposing that psychologists interested in the theory theory look for patterns of affect and arousal in development that would accompany the existence of a drive to explain.

[This paper is a substantially revised and expanded version of "Theories in Children and the Rest of Us", with several commentaries and a reply by the author.]

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