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Title: The Perfect Child Within Scientists think the belief that part of us is eternal emerges early in life and is part of our human nature
Author: Fraser Trevor
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The Perfect Child Within Scientists think the belief that part of us is eternal emerges early in life and is part of our human nature, rat...
The Perfect Child Within Scientists think the belief that part of us is eternal emerges early in life and is part of our human nature, rather than something that is imposed on a person by a culture or religion.

People across the world, regardless of their religion or culture, believe that humans are immortal and scientists think the idea of the soul existing without the body emerges very early in life.

This is an illustration by William Blake and Louis Schiavonetti showing the soul hovering over the body

KEY STUDY FINDINGS

The commonly held belief that part of us - a soul or essence for example - is eternal, emerges during childhood.

Humans often think the part of us that is immortal is not our ability to reason, but our desires and emotions - so we are what we feel.

In the study, cultural influences had no bearing on whether the children believed in immortality.

Children who took part in the study reasoned that their bodies didn't exist before birth and that they didn't have the ability to think or remember.
But they also said that their emotions and desires existed before they were born.
The human trait to believe in immortality might be a by-product of our highly developed social reasoning as humans tend to see others as the sum of their mental states – and desires and emotions are particularly helpful when predicting behaviour.
The idea of the soul surviving outside the body, while non-scientific, is natural and deep-seated, the researchers said.
Researchers from Boston University, led by Natalie Emmons, examined children’s ideas about the time before conception and interviewed 283 children from two very different cultures in Ecuador.
Her research suggests that we often think the part of us that is eternal is not our ability to reason, but our desires and emotions - so we are what we feel.

The study, published in the journal Child Development, fits into a growing body of work examining the cognitive roots of religion.

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