Development of integrated explanations for illness

Noriko Toyama*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The present study examined children's and adults’ explanations about the relations between various factors (contagion, imbalanced diet, lack of sleep, mental depression, cold weather, and immanent justice) and the onset of illness. Six-, 9-, 11-year-old children and adults very frequently judged that contagion and cold weather would make an individual contract a cold. They also tended to judge that lifestyle habits such as nutrition and sleep are causal factors. When asked why these factors led to illness, children and adults frequently referred to “germs” and “resistance” factors. In resistance explanations, given factors were assumed to cause illness by weakening an individual's resistant power, which was expressed as vital force, power, energy, physical strength, immune system, or stress. Coexistence of “germ” and “resistance” explanations were more evident among adults than children, and among adults with a higher education level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalCognitive Development
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jul 1


  • Causal explanations
  • Illness awareness
  • Knowledge acquisition
  • Naïve biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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