Children's Causal Explanations of Psychogenic Bodily Reactions

Noriko Toyama*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In Experiment 1, 4-, 5-, 8- and 11-year-old Japanese children (n=69) and adults (n=21) explained their reasons for bodily induced reactions (e.g. overeating leads to vomiting) and psychogenic bodily reactions (bodily outcomes originating in the mind, e.g. frustration leads to vomiting). Children gave vitalistic explanations, that is, explaining causal connections by referring to a vital force, in responses concerning bodily induced reactions, whereas adults typically gave these explanations in responses concerning psychogenic bodily reactions. In Experiment 2, 5-, 8- and 11-year-old children (n=96) and adults (n=24) explained bodily induced and psychogenic bodily reactions, and psychological behaviour, for example, that frustration leads to nail biting. As in Experiment 1, vitalistic explanations tended to be found for psychogenic tasks but were seldom found in either children's or adults' explanations of psychological behaviour. The findings suggest that with age vitalistic causality obtains cross mind-body implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-234
Number of pages19
JournalInfant and Child Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Mar
Externally publishedYes


  • Causal explanations
  • Cross-domain awareness
  • Naive biology
  • Psychogenic bodily reactions
  • Vitalistic causality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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