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Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Engel argues that the "scientist in a crib" view held by many parents and teachers encourages them to expect more logical reasoning and emotional self-control from children than they possess. She provides a concise and valuable overview of what modern developmental psychologists have learned about children's developing powers of perception and capacity for reasoning, but also suggests new ways of studying children that better capture the truth about their young minds.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-03649-9
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    I was a teacher of young children before I was a psychologist. Perhaps that is why, ever since I began reading research in developmental psychology in college, I have had a nagging sense that something was amiss. The children depicted in the studies I read were not like the children I encountered in everyday life. For every study that identified something about children invisible to the naked eye, there was an experiment that seemed to render the child into something less than what she really was. For every useful pattern or predictable response elicited through experiments, there was some behavior...

  5. 1 What We See and What We Miss
    (pp. 6-43)

    Children are not simple, nor are they transparent. Though they live among adults and will become adults, they are not merely incomplete adults. Much of the time, in fact, adults and children do not even seem to inhabit the same mental world. The child’s thoughts, preoccupations, and interpretations of the world around him are quite different from those that characterize most adults’ ideas about their world.

    Most readers, including my fellow psychologists, will probably read the preceding paragraph and nod as if what I have written is obvious or perhaps unimportant. But the ramifications of the difference between the mind...

  6. 2 A Glance Backward: What Have We Learned about Children?
    (pp. 44-91)

    Too often we miss seeing, or taking seriously, behavior that holds rich clues to the child’s mind. Sometimes our preexisting ideas about children function like blinders, preventing us from attending to the important data. It is equally true, however, that our ideas or theories about children help us see through the surface of their behavior to a deeper level. A theory works something like an Xray machine, helping us to see the underpinning or armature of a child’s actions and words. Each time I am intrigued by something a small child does or says, I ask myself what I know...

  7. 3 Spheres of Reality in Childhood
    (pp. 92-135)

    As neuroscientist Susan Greenfield once wrote, “Locked away in our brains is an absolute and inviolate individuality, a personal inner privacy of cascades of thoughts and feelings to which no one else has automatic access.”¹ If the adult mind contains this kind of mystery, how much more tantalizingly inaccessible is the mind of the young child? Though each of us has experienced childhood, we find it difficult, if not impossible, to recall what life felt like before we were twelve. Certainly we have no way of thinking back to how we learned things, how we organized knowledge, what distinctions we...

  8. 4 Toward a More Complete Understanding of Children
    (pp. 136-173)

    While researchers have done a superb job of pinpointing specific skills and measuring the effect of certain experiences on later development, they have been less successful, or interested, in grasping the experiences of early childhood. Some of this has to do with a tension in the field regarding the nature of psychological research. Should research only concern itself with isolating causes and effects? Can research be rigorous and trustworthy when it ventures to interpret observational data, or to take a person’s accounts of their own experience seriously? The tension gets played out on two levels: what should be studied, and...

  9. 5 Why This Matters, and to Whom
    (pp. 174-194)

    In 2000, theOnionpublished a small humorous piece in which the author described something called Youthful Tendency Disorder:

    Day after day, upon arriving home from pre-school, Caitlin would retreat into a bizarre fantasy world. Sometimes she would pretend to be people and things she was not. Other times, without warning, she would burst into nonsensical song. Some days she would run directionless through the backyard of the Sernas’ comfortable Redlands home, laughing and shrieking as she chased imaginary objects.

    When months of sessions with a local psychologist failed to yield an answer, Nicholas and Beverly took Caitlin to a...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 197-210)
  11. Index
    (pp. 211-219)