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The Ghost in My Body: Children's Developing Concept of the Soul

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image of Journal of Cognition and Culture

Two experiments were conducted to explore whether children, who have been exposed to the concept of the soul, differentiate the soul from the mind. In the first experiment, 4- to 12-year-old children were asked about whether a religious ritual affects the mind, the brain, or the soul. The majority of the children claimed that only the soul was different after baptism. In a follow-up study, 6- to 12-year-old children were tested more explicitly on what factors differentiate the soul from the mind and the brain. Children differentiated the soul from the mind and the brain along two dimensions: function and stability. In contrast to their responses about the mind and the brain, children did not claim that the soul was important for cognitive, non-cognitive, or biological functioning. Children consistently indicated that the mind and the brain change and grow over time. In contrast, children indicated that the soul is something that stays constant and is devoted to various, predominantly spiritual, functions.


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