DISCUSSION: When a question cites specific lines, you should always read a bit around them for context. Here, the case of the children starts on line 5. The whole section says that:
- In certain circumstances, children tend to misdescribe their thoughts.
- Adults are more capable of identifying their thoughts.
This is used to show that children don’t know their own thoughts directly. And therefore, adults don’t know their thoughts directly: adults are merely better at inferring the thoughts.
As an example, consider a young child burning their hand on the stove. They know their hand is the part of them that hurts. Even though they are young, they will have learned a lesson. Whereas, in regards to thoughts, the authors are saying the children might think about a dog, but believe they are thinking about a cat or an airplane.
The authors are missing one possibility: what if the children are just bad at using words. In other words, what if children know what they’re thinking, but can’t describe it?
I didn’t actually have this as a prephrase going in; I wasn’t sure where this might go. My only idea had been that maybe the “in certain circumstances” in line 7 might prove to be misleading circumstances.
- “Some” is a very vague word. This could mean that a single extremely perceptive child was as good at perceiving their thoughts as a single unperceptive adult. But the passage was merely claiming that on average young children were worse. Exceptions don’t matter.
- This misses the point. The purpose of the experiment was to show that humans don’t intrinsically know what they’re thinking. Instead, it’s something we learn to do with inference. So, older children might be experienced enough to make better inferences.
By contrast, humans are born into the world knowing that they feel pain. We don’t need to gain expertise to know if something hurts.
- CORRECT. If this is true, then children might know their thoughts, but be unable to express them. The author is arguing about what we know and not what we can express, so this gets to the heart of the matter. It was the fact that children didn’t know their thoughts that was important.
- So? We’re not asking the children to write psychology papers. We’re merely using them to gain evidence about how the human mind works. You don’t need to understand direct vs. indirect access to thoughts in order to describe what you believe your thoughts are.
- It doesn’t matter why the experiments were done. It only matters what the results were. Results of an experiment can be useful for reasons other than the intended reasons.
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