What We Theorize When We Theorize That We Theorize: The 'Lay Theory' Construct in Developmental, Social, and Cultural Psychology

By Daniel R. AmesEric D. KnowlesMichael W. Morris
1993| Working Paper No. 1523

This chapter integrates research in several academic disciplines on the lay theories that people rely on when making sense of their social environments. First, drawing on philosophy of science, we establish several criteria for a theory and distiguish types or levels of theories. Then we review work in philosophy on folk psychology, in develomental psychology research on the child’s theory of mind, and in social psychology research on implicit theories, causal schemata, and scripts. Against the foil of work in other disciplines, lay theory proposals by social psychologists take on a new perspective. We conclude by considering how the theory construct serves in accounting for individual differences and cultrual differencs in social cognition.