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Title: How children learn to transcend limits: Developmental pathways to possibility beliefs

This review presents a theoretical account of the development of possibility beliefs in childhood through two developmental pathways, centered around the experience and understanding of our intentional, goal-directed actions. Pathway 1 (Naïve Optimism to Calibrated Realism) can be seen as early as the first year, as increased coordination of action through motor experience leads infants to a graded notion of what is possible and how much effort is required to achieve goals. Infants also incorporate social information into their earliest possibility beliefs, referencing caregivers to guide them in uncertain situations and learning from role models to effectively calibrate effort. Pathway 2 (Naïve Pessimism to Creative Transcendence) emerges from ages 4 to 7. At first, preschoolers correctly distinguish possible and impossible actions but are overly pessimistic about limits on possibility. With age, children use their imaginations to overcome hypothetical limits. This account suggests that realistic beliefs about what we can possibly do are in place in early childhood, preceding later developmental milestones in self-concept, identity, self-efficacy, achievement-orientation, and self-goals. This leaves open questions about mechanisms of change, how possibility beliefs contribute to later self-beliefs, and whether interventions that combine action experience with creative idea generation can increase the sense of the possible in children and adults.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
Publisher / Repository:
SAGE Publications
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Possibility Studies & Society
Medium: X Size: p. 451-460
p. 451-460
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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