Skip to main content Accessibility help

The inherence heuristic: An intuitive means of making sense of the world, and a potential precursor to psychological essentialism

  • Andrei Cimpian (a1) and Erika Salomon (a2)


We propose that human reasoning relies on an inherence heuristic, an implicit cognitive process that leads people to explain observed patterns (e.g., girls wear pink) predominantly in terms of the inherent features of their constituents (e.g., pink is a delicate color). We then demonstrate how this proposed heuristic can provide a unified account for a broad set of findings spanning areas of research that might at first appear unrelated (e.g., system justification, nominal realism, is–ought errors in moral reasoning). By revealing the deep commonalities among the diverse phenomena that fall under its scope, our account is able to generate new insights into these phenomena, as well as new empirical predictions. A second main goal of this article, aside from introducing the inherence heuristic, is to articulate the proposal that the heuristic serves as a foundation for the development of psychological essentialism. More specifically, we propose that essentialism – which is the common belief that natural and social categories are underlain by hidden, causally powerful essences – emerges over the first few years of life as an elaboration of the earlier, and more open-ended, intuitions supplied by the inherence heuristic. In the final part of the report, we distinguish our proposal from competing accounts (e.g., Strevens's K-laws) and clarify the relationship between the inherence heuristic and related cognitive tendencies (e.g., the correspondence bias). In sum, this article illuminates a basic cognitive process that emerges early in life and is likely to have profound effects on many aspects of human psychology.



Hide All
Ahn, W., Kalish, C., Gelman, S. A., Medin, D., Luhmann, C., Atran, S., Coley, J. D. & Shafto, P. (2001) Why essences are essential in the psychology of concepts. Cognition 82:5969. doi:10.1016/S0010-0277(01)00145-7.
Anderson, C. A., Krull, D. S. & Weiner, B. (1996) Explanations: Processes and consequences. In: Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles, ed. Higgins, E. T. & Kruglanski, A. W., pp. 271–96. Guilford Press.
Atran, S. (1993) Cognitive foundations of natural history: Towards an anthropology of science. Cambridge University Press.
Atran, S. (1998) Folk biology and the anthropology of science: Cognitive universals and cultural particulars. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21:547609.
Bargh, J. A. (1999) The cognitive monster: The case against controllability of automatic stereotype effects. In: Dual-process theories in social psychology, ed. Chaiken, S. & Trope, Y., pp. 361–82. Guilford Press.
Bargh, J. A., Bond, R. N., Lombardi, W. J. & Tota, M. E. (1986) The additive nature of chronic and temporary sources of construct accessibility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 50:869–78.
Baron, A. & Banaji, M. (2009) Evidence of system justification in young children. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 3:918–26.
Baron, J. (2005) Rationality and intelligence. Cambridge University Press.
Bastian, B. & Haslam, N. (2006) Psychological essentialism and stereotype endorsement. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 42:228–35. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2005.03.003.
Bloom, P. (1996) Intention, history, and artifact concepts. Cognition 60:129.
Bloom, P. (2000) How children learn the meanings of words. MIT Press.
Bloom, P. (2004) Descartes' baby: How the science of child development explains what makes us human. Basic Books.
Boroditsky, L., Schmidt, L. A. & Phillips, W. (2003) Sex, syntax, and semantics. In: Language in mind: Advances in the study of language and thought, ed. Gentner, D. & Goldin-Meadow, S., pp. 6179. MIT Press.
Brook, J. S. (1970) A test of Piaget's theory of “nominal realism.Journal of Genetic Psychology 116:165–75.
Cacioppo, J. T., Petty, R. E. & Kao, C. F. (1984) The efficient assessment of need for cognition. Journal of Personality Assessment 48:306307.
Carey, S. (1996) Cognitive domains as modes of thought. In: Modes of thought: Explorations in culture and cognition, ed. Olson, D. R. & Torrance, N., pp. 187215. Cambridge University Press.
Cattell, R. B. (1986) Intelligence: Its structure, growth, and action. Elsevier.
Chen, S. & Chaiken, S. (1999) The heuristic–systematic model in its broader context. In: Dual-process theories in social and cognitive psychology, ed. Chaiken, S. & Trope, Y., pp. 7396. Guilford Press.
Cimpian, A. (2010) The impact of generic language about ability on children's achievement motivation. Developmental Psychology 46:1333–40.
Cimpian, A. (2013) Generic statements, causal attributions, and children's naive theories. In: Navigating the social world: What infants, children, and other species can teach us, ed. Banaji, M. R. & Gelman, S. A., pp. 269–74. Oxford University Press.
Cimpian, A., Arce, H. C., Markman, E. M. & Dweck, C. S. (2007) Subtle linguistic cues affect children's motivation. Psychological Science 18:314–16.
Cimpian, A. & Cadena, C. (2010) Why are dunkels sticky? Preschoolers infer functionality and intentional creation for artifact properties learned from generic language. Cognition 117:6268.
Cimpian, A. & Erickson, L. C. (2012) The effect of generic statements on children's causal attributions: Questions of mechanism. Developmental Psychology 48:159–70.
Cimpian, A. & Markman, E. M. (2009) Information learned from generic language becomes central to children's biological concepts: Evidence from their open-ended explanations. Cognition 113:1425.
Cimpian, A. & Markman, E. M. (2011) The generic/nongeneric distinction influences how children interpret new information about social others. Child Development 82:471–92.
Cimpian, A., Mu, Y. & Erickson, L. C. (2012) Who is good at this game? Linking an activity to a social category undermines children's achievement. Psychological Science 23:533–41.
Cimpian, A. & Scott, R. M. (2012) Children expect generic knowledge to be widely shared. Cognition 123:419–33.
Cimpian, A. & Steinberg, O. D. (in press) The inherence heuristic across development: Systematic differences between children's and adults' explanations for everyday facts. Cognitive Psychology. doi:10.1016/j.cogpsych.2014.09.001
Clark, E. V. (1988) On the logic of contrast. Journal of Child Language 15:317–35.
Dar-Nimrod, I. & Heine, S. J. (2011) Genetic essentialism: On the deceptive determinism of DNA. Psychological Bulletin 137:800–18.
De Neys, W. (2006) Dual processing in reasoning: Two systems but one reasoner. Psychological Science 17:428–33.
Devine, P. G. (1989) Stereotypes and prejudice: Their automatic and controlled components. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 56:518.
Diesendruck, G. & Markson, L. (2001) Children's avoidance of lexical overlap: A pragmatic account. Developmental Psychology 37:630–41.
Diesendruck, G. & Markson, L. (2011) Children's assumption of the conventionality of culture. Child Development Perspectives 5:189–95.
DiVitto, B. & McArthur, L. Z. (1978) Developmental differences in the use of distinctiveness, consensus, and consistency information for making causal attributions. Developmental Psychology 14:474–82.
Dupré, J. (1981) Natural kinds and biological taxa. Philosophical Review 90:6690.
Dweck, C. S. (1999) Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. Psychology Press.
Dweck, C. S. (2006) Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.
Eidelman, S., Crandall, C. S. & Pattershall, J. (2009) The existence bias. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 97:765–75.
Evans, J. St. B. T. (2003) In two minds: Dual-process accounts of reasoning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 7:454–59.
Evans, J. St. B. T. (2006) The heuristic-analytic theory of reasoning: Extension and evaluation. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review 13:378–95.
Evans, J. St. B. T. (2008) Dual-processing accounts of reasoning, judgment, and social cognition. Annual Review of Psychology 59:255–78.
Evans, J. St. B. T. (2009) How many dual process theories do we need: One, two or many? In: In two minds: Dual processes and beyond, ed. Evans, J. St. B. T. & Frankish, K., pp. 132. Oxford University Press.
Fiske, S. T. & Taylor, S. E. (1984) Social cognition. Addison-Wesley.
Frazer, J. G. (1890/1958) The golden bough: A study in magic and religion. Macmillan. (Original work published in 1890.)
Frederick, S. (2002) Automated choice heuristics. In: Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive judgment, ed. Gilovich, T., Griffin, D. & Kahneman, D., pp. 548–58. Cambridge University Press.
Friedrich, J. (2005) Naturalistic fallacy errors in lay interpretations of psychological science: Data and reflections on the Rind, Tromovitch, and Bauserman (1998) controversy. Basic and Applied Social Psychology 27:5970.
Friedrich, J. (2010) Naturalistic fallacy errors and behavioral science news: The effects of editorial content and cautions on readers' moral inferences and perceptions of contributors. Basic and Applied Social Psychology 32:369–83.
Friedrich, J., Kierniesky, N. & Cardon, L. (1989) Drawing moral inferences from descriptive science: The impact of attitudes on naturalistic fallacy errors. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 15:414–25.
Gabennesch, H. (1990) The perception of social conventionality by children and adults. Child Development 61:2047–59.
Gawronski, B. (2004) Theory-based bias correction in dispositional inference: The fundamental attribution error is dead, long live the correspondence bias. European Review of Social Psychology 15:183217.
Gelman, R. (1990) First principles organize attention to and learning about relevant data: Number and the animate–inanimate distinction as examples. Cognitive Science 14:79106.
Gelman, S. A. (2003) The essential child: Origins of essentialism in everyday thought. Oxford University Press.
Gelman, S. A. & Bloom, P. (2000) Young children are sensitive to how an object was created when deciding what to name it. Cognition 76:91103.
Gelman, S. A., Coley, J. D., Rosengren, K. S., Hartman, E. & Pappas, A. (1998) Beyond labeling: The role of parental input in the acquisition of richly structured categories. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development 63(1, whole no. 253).
Gelman, S. A. & Gottfried, G. M. (1996) Children's causal explanations of animate and inanimate motion. Child Development 67:1970–87.
Gelman, S. A. & Kalish, C. W. (1993) Categories and causality. In: Emerging themes in cognitive development, vol. 2, ed. Pasnak, R. & Howe, M. L., pp. 332. Springer.
Gelman, S. A. & Markman, E. M. (1986) Categories and induction in young children. Cognition 23:183209.
Gelman, S. A., Taylor, M. G. & Nguyen, S. P. (2004) Mother–child conversations about gender: Understanding the acquisition of essentialist beliefs. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development 69(1, Whole No. 275).
Gelman, S. A., Ware, E. A. & Kleinberg, F. (2010) Effects of generic language on category content and structure. Cognitive Psychology 61:273301.
Gelman, S. A. & Wellman, H. M. (1991) Insides and essences: Early understandings of the non-obvious. Cognition 38:213–44.
Gilbert, D. T. & Malone, P. S. (1995) The correspondence bias. Psychological Bulletin 117:2138.
Gilbert, D. T., Pelham, B. W. & Krull, D. S. (1988) On cognitive busyness: When person perceivers meet persons perceived. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 54:733–40.
Gilovich, T. & Griffin, D. (2002) Introduction – Heuristics and biases: Then and now. In: Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive judgment, ed. Gilovich, T., Griffin, D. & Kahneman, D., pp. 118. Cambridge University Press.
Gilovich, T., Griffin, D. & Kahneman, D. (2002) Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive judgment. Cambridge University Press.
Gil-White, F. (2001) Are ethnic groups biological “species” to the human brain? Current Anthropology 42:515–54.
Gopnik, A. (1998) Explanation as orgasm. Minds and Machines 8:101–18.
Gopnik, A., Glymour, C., Sobel, D. M., Schulz, L. E., Kushnir, T. & Danks, D. (2004) A theory of causal learning in children: Causal maps and Bayes nets. Psychological Review 111:332.
Gottfried, G. M. & Gelman, S. A. (2005) Developing domain-specific causal-explanatory frameworks: The role of insides and immanence. Cognitive Development 20:137–58.
Graham, S. A., Stock, H. & Henderson, A. M. (2006) Nineteen-month-olds' understanding of the conventionality of object labels versus desires. Infancy 9:341–50.
Greenwald, A. G., McGhee, D. E. & Schwartz, J. L. K. (1998) Measuring individual differences in implicit cognition: The implicit association test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74:1464–80.
Gweon, H. & Schulz, L. E. (2011) 16-month-olds rationally infer causes of failed actions. Science 332:1524.
Haslam, N., Rothschild, L. & Ernst, D. (2000) Essentialist beliefs about social categories. British Journal of Social Psychology 39:113–27. doi:10.1348/014466600164363.
Haslam, N., Rothschild, L. & Ernst, D. (2002) Are essentialist beliefs associated with prejudice? British Journal of Social Psychology 41:87100. doi:10.1348/014466602165072.
Haslam, N. & Whelan, J. (2008) Human natures: Psychological essentialism in thinking about differences between people. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 2:1297–312.
Hatano, G. & Inagaki, K. (1994) Young children's naive theory of biology. Cognition 50:171–88.
Helwig, C. C., Tisak, M. S. & Turiel, E. (1990) Children's social reasoning in context: Reply to Gabennesch. Child Development 61:2068–78.
Helwig, C. C. & Turiel, E. (2011) Children's social and moral reasoning. In: Wiley-Blackwell handbook of childhood social development, 2nd edition, ed. Hart, C. & Smith, P., pp. 567–83. Wiley-Blackwell.
Higgins, E. T. (1996) Knowledge activation: Accessibility, applicability, and salience. In: Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles, ed. Higgins, E. T. & Kruglanski, A. W., pp. 133–68. Guilford Press.
Higgins, E. T. & Bryant, S. L. (1982) Consensus information and fundamental attribution error: The role of development and in-group versus out-group knowledge. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 43:889900.
Higgins, E. T. & King, G. (1981) Accessibility of social constructs: Information processing consequences of individual and contextual variability. In: Personality, cognition, and social interaction, ed. Cantor, N. & Kihlstrom, J. F., pp. 69121. Erlbaum.
Higgins, E. T., King, G. A. & Mavin, G. H. (1982) Individual construct accessibility and subjective impressions and recall. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 43:3547.
Higgins, E. T., Rholes, W. S. & Jones, C. R. (1977) Category accessibility and impression formation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 13:141–54.
Hoffman, C. & Hurst, N. (1990) Gender stereotypes: Perception or rationalization? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 58:197208.
Hood, B. M. & Bloom, P. (2008) Children prefer certain individuals over perfect duplicates. Cognition 106:455–62.
Hooper, E. M. (1890) Hints on home dress-making. The Ladies' Home Journal 7(12):23.
Horton, R. (1967) African traditional thought and Western science: Part II. The “closed” and “open” predicaments. Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 37:155–87.
Hume, D. (1740/2000) A treatise of human nature, ed. Norton, D. F. & Norton, M. J.. Oxford University Press. (Original work published 1740.)
Hurlbert, A. & Ling, Y. (2007) Biological components of sex differences in color preference. Current Biology 17:R623–25.
Jones, E. E. & Davis, K. E. (1965) From acts to dispositions: The attribution process in social psychology. In: Advances in experimental social psychology, vol. 2, ed. Berkowitz, L., pp. 219–66. Academic Press.
Jones, E. E. & Harris, V. A. (1967) The attribution of attitudes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 3:124.
Jost, J. T. (2001) Outgroup favoritism and the theory of system justification: A paradigm for investigating the effects of socioeconomic success on stereotype content. In: Cognitive social psychology: The Princeton symposium on the legacy and future of social cognition, ed. Moskowitz, G., pp. 89102. Psychology Press.
Jost, J. T. & Banaji, M. R. (1994) The role of stereotyping in system-justification and the production of false consciousness. British Journal of Social Psychology 33:127.
Jost, J. T. Banaji, M. R. & Nosek, B. A. (2004) A decade of system justification theory: Accumulated evidence of conscious and unconscious bolstering of the status quo. Political Psychology 25:881919.
Jost, J. T. & Burgess, D. (2000) Attitudinal ambivalence and the conflict between group and system justification motives in low status groups. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 26:293305.
Jost, J. T., Glaser, J., Kruglanksi, A. W. & Sulloway, F. (2003) Political conservatism as motivated social cognition. Psychological Bulletin 129:339–75.
Jost, J. T. & Hunyady, O. (2005) Antecedents and consequences of system-justifying ideologies. Current Directions in Psychological Science 14:260–65.
Kahneman, D. (2011) Thinking, fast and slow. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
Kahneman, D. & Frederick, S. (2002) Representativeness revisited: Attribute substitution in intuitive judgment. In: Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive judgment, ed. Gilovich, T., Griffin, D. & Kahneman, D., pp. 4981. Cambridge University Press.
Kahneman, D. & Tversky, A. (1973) On the psychology of prediction. Psychological Review 80:237–51.
Kail, R. (1991) Developmental change in speed of processing during childhood and adolescence. Psychological Bulletin 109:490501.
Kalish, C. W. (1998) Reasons and causes: Children's understanding of conformity to social rules and physical laws. Child Development 69:706–20.
Kalish, C. W. & Lawson, C. A. (2008) Development of social category representations: Early appreciation of roles and deontic relations. Child Development 79:577–93.
Kamins, M. L. & Dweck, C. S. (1999) Person versus process praise and criticism: Implications for contingent self-worth and coping. Developmental Psychology 35:835–47.
Kane, M. J. & Engle, R. W. (2002) The role of prefrontal cortex in working-memory capacity, executive attention, and general fluid intelligence: An individual-differences perspective. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review 9:637–71.
Kay, A. C. & Friesen, J. (2011) On social stability and social change: Understanding when system justification does and does not occur. Current Directions in Psychological Science 20:360–64.
Kay, A. C., Gaucher, D., Peach, J. M., Laurin, K., Friesen, J., Zanna, M. P. & Spencer, S. J. (2009) Inequality, discrimination, and the power of the status quo: Direct evidence for a motivation to see the way things are as the way they should be. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 97:421–34.
Keller, J. (2005) In genes we trust: The biological component of psychological essentialism and its relationship to mechanisms of motivated social cognition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 88:686702. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.88.4.686.
Kelley, H. H. (1967) Attribution theory in social psychology. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation 15:192238.
Kelley, H. H. (1973) The processes of causal attribution. American Psychologist 28:107–28.
Kelley, H. H. & Michela, J. L. (1980) Attribution theory and research. Annual Review of Psychology 31:457501.
Keysar, B. & Bly, B. M. (1995) Intuitions of the transparency of idioms: Can one keep a secret by spilling the beans? Journal of Memory and Language 34:89109.
Keysar, B. & Bly, B. M. (1999) Swimming against the current: Do idioms reflect conceptual structure? Journal of Pragmatics 31:1559–78.
Kokis, J. V., Macpherson, R., Toplak, M. E., West, R. F. & Stanovich, K. E. (2002) Heuristic and analytic processing: Age trends and associations with cognitive ability and cognitive styles. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 83:2652.
Kornblith, H. (1995) Inductive inference and its natural ground: An essay in naturalistic epistemology. MIT Press.
Kruglanski, A. W. (1996) Motivated social cognition: Principles of the interface. In: Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles, ed. Higgins, E. T. & Kruglanski, A. W., pp. 493520. Guilford Press.
Kruglanski, A. W., Webster, D. W. & Klem, A. (1993) Motivated resistance and openness to persuasion in the presence or absence of prior information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65:861–76.
Krull, D. S. (1993) Does the grist change the mill? The effect of the perceiver's inferential goal on the process of social inference. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 19:340–48.
Krull, D. S., Loy, M. H. M., Lin, J., Wang, C. F., Chen, S. & Zhao, X. (1999) The fundamental fundamental attribution error: Correspondence bias in individualist and collectivist cultures. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 25:1208–19.
Laszlo, P. (2007) Citrus: A history. University of Chicago Press.
Lerner, M. J. (1980) The belief in a just world: A fundamental delusion. Plenum
Leslie, S. J. (2013) Essence and natural kinds: When science meets preschooler intuition. In: Oxford studies in epistemology, vol. 4, ed. Gendler, T. & Hawthorne, J., pp. 108–66. Oxford University Press.
Levy, S. R., Stroessner, S. J. & Dweck, C. S. (1998) Stereotype formation and endorsement: The role of implicit theories. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74:1421–36. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.74.6.1421.
Lipton, P. (2004) Inference to the best explanation, 2nd edition. Routledge.
Liviatan, I. & Jost, J. T. (2011) Motivated social cognition in the service of the status quo. Special issue: System justification theory. Social Cognition 29:231–37.
LoBue, V. & DeLoache, J. S. (2011) Pretty in pink: The early development of gender-stereotyped colour preferences. British Journal of Developmental Psychology 29:656–67.
Lockhart, K. L., Abrahams, B. & Osherson, D. N. (1977) Children's understanding of uniformity in the environment. Child Development 48:1521–31.
Lohman, D. F. (1989) Human intelligence: An introduction to advances in theory and research. Review of Educational Research 59:333–73.
Luo, Y., Kaufman, L. & Baillargeon, R. (2009) Young infants' reasoning about physical events involving inert and self-propelled objects. Cognitive Psychology 58:441–86.
Maglo, K. N. (2011) The case against biological realism about race: From Darwin to the post-genomic era. Perspectives on Science 19:361–90.
Markman, E. M. (1989) Categorization and naming in children: Problems of induction. MIT Press.
Matthews, M., Levin, S. & Sidanius, J. (2009) A longitudinal test of the model of political conservatism as motivated social cognition. Political Psychology 30:921–36.
Maurer, D., Pathman, T. & Mondloch, C. J. (2006) The shape of boubas: Sound–shape correspondences in toddlers and adults. Developmental Science 9:316–22.
McArthur, L. A. (1972) The how and what of why: Some determinants and consequences of causal attribution. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 22:171–93.
McRae, K., De Sa, V. R. & Seidenberg, M. S. (1997) On the nature and scope of featural representations of word meaning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 126:99130.
McRae, K. & Jones, M. N. (2013) Semantic memory. In: The Oxford handbook of cognitive psychology, ed. Reisberg, D.. Oxford University Press.
Medin, D. L. & Ortony, A. (1989) Psychological essentialism. In: Similarity and analogical reasoning, ed. Vosniadou, S. & Ortony, A., pp. 179–95. Cambridge University Press.
Meyer, M., Leslie, S.-J., Gelman, S. A. & Stilwell, S. M. (2013) Essentialist beliefs about bodily transplants in the United States and India. Cognitive Science 37:668710.
Morris, M. & Peng, K. (1994) Culture and cause: American and Chinese attributions for social and physical events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 67:949–71.
Morris, S. C., Taplin, J. E. & Gelman, S. A. (2000) Vitalism in naive biological thinking. Developmental Psychology 36:582–95.
Mueller, C. M. & Dweck, C. S. (1998) Praise for intelligence can undermine children's motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 75:3352.
Murdock, G. P., Wilson, S. F. & Frederick, V. (1978) World distribution of theories of illness. Ethnology 17:449–70.
Murphy, G. L. (2004) The big book of concepts. MIT Press.
Murphy, G. L. & Medin, D. L. (1985) The role of theories in conceptual coherence. Psychological Review 92:289316.
Napier, J. L., Mandisodza, A. N., Andersen, S. M. & Jost, J. T. (2006) System justification in responding to the poor and displaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy 6:5773.
Needham, P. (2000) What is water? Analysis 60:1321.
Needham, P. (2011) Microessentialism: What is the argument? Noûs 45:121.
Newman, G. E., Herrmann, P., Wynn, K. & Keil, F. C. (2008) Biases towards internal features in infants' reasoning about objects. Cognition 107(2):420–32.
Newman, G. E. & Keil, F. C. (2008) Where is the essence? Developmental shifts in children's beliefs about internal features. Child Development 79(5):1344–56.
Nickerson, R. S. (1998) Confirmation bias: A ubiquitous phenomenon in many guises. Review of General Psychology 2:175220.
Orvis, B. R., Cunningham, J. D. & Kelley, H. H. (1975) A closer examination of causal inference: The roles of consensus, distinctiveness, and consistency information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 32:605–16.
Osherson, D. N. & Markman, E. M. (1975) Language and the ability to evaluate contradictions and tautologies. Cognition 3:213–26.
Paoletti, J. B. (2012) Pink and blue: Telling the boys from the girls in America. Indiana University Press.
Piaget, J. (1929/1967) The child's conception of the world, trans. Tomlinson, J. & Tomlinson, A.. Littlefield, Adams & Co. (Original work published 1929.)
Pinker, S. (1994) The language instinct: How the mind creates language. William Morrow.
Prasada, S. & Dillingham, E. (2006) Principled and statistical connections in common sense conception. Cognition 99:73112.
Prasada, S. & Dillingham, E. (2009) Representation of principled connections: A window onto the formal aspect of common sense conception. Cognitive Science 33:401–48.
Premack, D. & Premack, A. J. (1996) Origins of human social competence. In: The cognitive neurosciences, ed. Gazzaniga, M. S., pp. 205–18. MIT Press.
Prentice, D. A. & Miller, D. T. (2007) Psychological essentialism of human categories. Current Directions in Psychological Science 16:202–6.
Pyszczynski, T. & Greenberg, J. (1987) Toward an integration of cognitive and motivational perspectives on social inference: A biased-hypothesis testing model. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 20:297340.
Ramachandran, V. S. & Hubbard, E. M. (2001) Synaesthesia – A window into perception, thought and language. Journal of Consciousness Studies 8:334.
Raven, J. C. (1960) Guide to the standard progressive matrices: Sets A, B, C, D and E. H. K. Lewis & Co.
Rhodes, M. & Gelman, S. A. (2009) A developmental examination of the conceptual structure of animal, artifact, and human social categories across two cultural contexts. Cognitive Psychology 59:244–74.
Rhodes, M., Leslie, S. J. & Tworek, C. M. (2012) Cultural transmission of social essentialism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 109:13526–31.
Rosch, E. & Mervis, C. B. (1975) Family resemblances: Studies in the internal structure of categories. Cognitive Psychology 7:573605.
Rosenblum, T. & Pinker, S. A. (1983) Word magic revisited: Monolingual and bilingual children's understanding of the word-object relationship. Child Development 54:773–80.
Ross, L. D. (1977) The intuitive psychologist and his shortcomings: Distortions in the attribution process. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 10:173220.
Ross, L. D., Amabile, T. M. & Steinmetz, J. L. (1977) Social roles, social control, and biases in social-perception processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 35:485–94.
Rozin, P., Markwith, M. & Ross, B. (1990) The sympathetic magical law of similarity, nominal realism and neglect of negatives in response to negative labels. Psychological Science 1:383–84.
Rozin, P., Millman, L. & Nemeroff, C. (1986) Operation of the laws of sympathetic magic in disgust and other domains. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 50:703–12.
Ruble, D. N., Feldman, N. S., Higgins, E. T. & Karlovac, M. (1979) Locus of causality and the use of information in the development of causal attributions. Journal of Personality 47:595614.
Saffran, J. R., Aslin, R. N. & Newport, E. L. (1996) Statistical learning by 8-month-old infants. Science 274:1926–28.
Salomon, E., & Cimpian, A. (2014). The inherence heuristic as a source of essentialist thought. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 40:1297–315.
Samuelson, W. & Zeckhauser, R. (1988) Status quo bias in decision making. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 1:759.
Saxe, R., Tenenbaum, J. B. & Carey, S. (2005) Secret agents: Inferences about hidden causes by 10- and 12-month-old infants. Psychological Science 16:9951001.
Schulz, L. E. (2012) The origins of inquiry: Inductive inference and exploration in early childhood. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 16:382–89.
Schwarz, N. & Clore, G. L. (1983) Mood, misattribution, and judgments of well-being: Informative and directive functions of affective states. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 45:513–23.
Scribner, S. & Cole, M. (1981) The psychology of literacy. Harvard University Press.
Seiver, E., Gopnik, A. & Goodman, N. D. (2013) Did she jump because she was the big sister or because the trampoline was safe? Causal inference and the development of social attribution. Child Development 8:443–54.
Shweder, R. A., Mahapatra, M. & Miller, J. G. (1987) Culture and moral development. In: The emergence of morality in young children, ed. Kagan, J. & Lamb, S., pp. 182. University of Chicago Press.
Simons, D. J. & Keil, F. C. (1995) An abstract to concrete shift in the development of biological thought: The insides story. Cognition 56:129–63.
Sloman, S. A. (1996) The empirical case for two systems of reasoning. Psychological Bulletin 119:322.
Smetana, J. G., Schlagman, N. & Adams, P. W. (1993) Preschool children's judgments about hypothetical and actual transgressions. Child Development 64:202–14.
Snyder, M. & Swann, W. B. (1978) Hypothesis-testing processes in social interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 36:1202–12.
Sober, E. (1994) From a biological point of view: Essays in evolutionary philosophy. Cambridge University Press.
Stanovich, K. E. (1999) Who is rational? Studies of individual differences in reasoning. Erlbaum.
Stanovich, K. E. (2011) Rationality and the reflective mind. Oxford University Press.
Stanovich, K. E. & West, R. F. (1997) Reasoning independently of prior belief and individual differences in actively open-minded thinking. Journal of Educational Psychology 89:342–57.
Stanovich, K. E. & West, R. F. (2000) Individual differences in reasoning: Implications for the rationality debate? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 23:645–65.
Strevens, M. (2000) The essentialist aspect of naive theories. Cognition 74:149–75.
Strevens, M. (2001) Only causation matters: Reply to Ahn et al. Cognition 82:7176.
Sutherland, S. L. & Cimpian, A. (in preparation) An inherence heuristic in explanation promotes the belief that words are well suited for their referents.
Tambiah, S. J. (1968) The magical power of words. Man 3:175208.
Trope, Y. & Gaunt, R. (1999) A dual-process model of overconfident attributional inferences, In: Dual-process theories in social psychology, ed. Chaiken, S. & Trope, Y., pp. 161–78. Guilford Press.
Trope, Y. & Gaunt, R. (2000) Processing alternative explanations of behavior: Correction or integration? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 79:344–54.
Trope, Y. & Gaunt, R. (2007) Attribution and person perception. In: The Sage handbook of social psychology, ed. Hogg, M. A. & Cooper, J., pp. 176–94. Sage.
Tversky, A. & Kahneman, D. (1983) Extensional versus intuitive reasoning: The conjunction fallacy in probability judgment. Psychological Review 90:293315.
Unger, R. M. (1983) The critical legal studies movement. Harvard Law Review 96:561675.
Wason, P. C. (1960) On the failure to eliminate hypotheses in a conceptual task. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 12:129–40.
Weiner, B. (1985) “Spontaneous” causal thinking. Psychological Bulletin 97:7484.
Welder, A. N. & Graham, S. A. (2006) Infants' categorization of novel objects with more or less obvious features. Cognitive Psychology 52:5791.
Williams, B. R., Ponesse, J. S., Schachar, R. J., Logan, G. D. & Tannock, R. (1999) Development of inhibitory control across the life span. Developmental Psychology 35:205–13.
Williams, M. J. & Eberhardt, J. L. (2008) Biological conceptions of race and the motivation to cross racial boundaries. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84:1033–47. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.94.6.1033.
Wilson, D. S., Dietrich, E. & Clark, A. B. (2003) On the inappropriate use of the naturalistic fallacy in evolutionary psychology. Biology and Philosophy 18:669–81.
Yzerbyt, V. Y., Corneille, O. & Estrada, C. (2001) The interplay of subjective essentialism and entitativity in the formation of stereotypes. Personality and Social Psychology Review 5:141–55.
Zhao, J., Al-Aidroos, N. & Turk-Browne, N. B. (2013) Attention is spontaneously biased toward regularities. Psychological Science 24:667–77.


The inherence heuristic: An intuitive means of making sense of the world, and a potential precursor to psychological essentialism

  • Andrei Cimpian (a1) and Erika Salomon (a2)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed