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Developing Conceptions of Responsive Intentional Agents

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We argue that folk psychology and folk morality both develop from the same core conception of persons, namely a concept of a responsive intentional agent. Key features of this conception are evident in infancy and develop universally in the preschool years across cultures and languages. Even these early understandings develop, shaped and specified via processes of cognitive construction intertwined with cultural constructs of persons provided within interactive culturally constituted, communicative experiences of childhood. The result is culturally variable endpoints of social cognitive development, that is, culturally variable folk psychologies and folk moralities. We underwrite this argument with data from studies of theory of mind understandings, moral judgments, person description and explanation, and autobiographical memory, research that spans from infancy to adulthood and includes a variety of cultural communities.


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