Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Jean Piaget on Animism - Dictionary of Arguments

Upton I 78
Animism/magical thinking/Piaget/Upton: Piaget (1923)(1) believed that children’s mental reasoning at this stage was limited by magical thinking and animism. Animism is the belief that objects have lifelike qualities and are therefore capable of having feelings, intentions and emotions. For example, a preoperational child may explain the rain by saying that the clouds are sad and are crying. According to Piaget, this limits children’s understanding of how the world works and so reduces their ability to think logically. It also means that they find it difficult to tell the difference between reality and fantasy.
VsPiaget: Woolley (1997)(2) disagrees with the idea that children’s thinking is more magical than that of adults. Adults have been found to be just as likely as
Upton I 79
children to engage in magical thinking, especially when they do not have the knowledge to explain phenomena. Adults invent speculation to fill gaps in their knowledge, much as children do. It is therefore the social context that determines whether or not adults or children engage in magical thinking.



1. Piaget, J. (1923) Language and Thought of the Child. London: Routledge.
2. Woolley, J.D. (1997) Thinking about fantasy: are children fundamentally different thinkers and believers than adults? Child Development, 68: 991–1011.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Piag I
J. Piaget
The Psychology Of The Child 2nd Edition 1969

Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2022-08-12
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