Research in Science Education

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 651–671 | Cite as

Children’s Teleological Intuitions: What Kind of Explanations Do 7–8 Year Olds Give for the Features of Organisms, Artifacts and Natural Objects?

  • Kostas Kampourakis
  • Vasiliki Pavlidi
  • Maria Papadopoulou
  • Eirini Palaiokrassa


Research has shown that children usually provide teleological explanations for the features of organisms from a very early age (3–4 years old). However, it is not clear if teleology is applied selectively for organisms, or if it is generally applied to other objects as well (artifacts and non-living natural objects). The present study examined whether 7–8 year old students provided teleological explanations for particular organisms, artifacts and natural objects. We investigated whether children's familiarity with these objects influenced the types of explanations they gave. Finally, we also investigated correlations between 'teleology' and 'usefulness' in children's explanations. The results indicate that 7–8 year olds are able to distinguish between living and non-living entities, as well as that they provide teleological explanations mostly for organisms and artifacts. This may have important implications for biological education, since teleological explanations in classrooms are likely to pose important conceptual obstacles to the development of a scientific understanding of evolution.


Artifacts Elementary students Evolution education Organisms Natural objects Teleology 



We are indebted to Dimitra Tsetsou and Vassiliki Zerva for their assistance in data collection and data coding. We also thank Aggeliki Zacharaki, Dora Christodoulou and Sofia Batskini for their assistance in data collection. Finally, we are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for providing useful suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kostas Kampourakis
    • 1
  • Vasiliki Pavlidi
    • 1
  • Maria Papadopoulou
    • 1
  • Eirini Palaiokrassa
    • 1
  1. 1.Geitonas SchoolVari AttikisGreece

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