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Definition: The belief, characteristic of pre-operational thought, that inanimate objects are all living. Example: Becky who was three years old and who had once been quite afraid of sleeping in the dark told her mother that she felt very comfortable at nights now because every time the moon came out its face was deliberately smiling at her. She went on to say that on some nights the moon peeped around the clouds to make her happy. Background: In terms of Piaget's cognitive developmental theory children in the pre-operational phase of development (from two to seven years) demonstrate a cognitive characteristic he described as animism. This means that they attribute life and consciousness to physical objects like the sun and moon. For example, if a tree moves in the wind it must be alive. This primitive form of reasoning eventually disappears as the child develops what Piaget termed operational thought. Further Reading:
Beilin, H. (1992). Piagets enduring contribution to developmental psychology. Developmental Psychology. 28, 191-204.
Piaget, J., & Inhelder, B. (1969). The psychology of the child. New York: Basic Books.
Related Terms: Cognitive development
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