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Katherine Nelson
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Katherine Nelson re-centers developmental psychology with a revived emphasis on development and change, rather than foundations and continuity. Nelson argues that a child’s entrance into the community of minds is a gradual process with enormous consequences for child development, and the adults that they become.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-04140-0
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. 1 Modern Metaphors of th Developing Child
    (pp. 1-28)

    Too often something seems to be missing in our studies of children, as they are conducted in experimental laboratories—what Barbara McClintock called “a feeling for the organism.”¹ The idea of the “experiential child” captures some of what is missing: the fact that development depends on experience and learning gained from the unique perspective of an infant or child in the midstream of becoming a person. This child actively seeks meaningful experiences relevant to her current needs and interests and makes pragmatic sense of her encounters in the world, in close relation with adults who care for, support, and guide...

  5. 2 Perspectives on Meaning
    (pp. 29-57)

    Bruner’s call for constructing a mental science around the concept of meaning implies two central ideas: that meaning is crucial in understanding how human minds “work,” and that meanings are created by communities and not only by individuals. These are powerful suggestions that point toward a new foundation for developmental cognitive psychology. Bruner was of course one of the pioneers of modern cognitive science and a major contributor to studies of infancy and language acquisition from the 1960s through the 1990s. In the work quoted above he also notes that contemporary cognitive science has left “unexplained and somewhat obscured the...

  6. 3 Being an Infant, Becoming a Child
    (pp. 58-86)

    Every theory of cognition and its development is obliged to propose an account of its beginnings in infancy. Piaget undertook his painstaking studies of his three children, using both detailed observations and naturalistic experiments, to build a theory of sensorimotor stages prior to the emergence of representational thought. As discussed in Chapters 1 and 2, these studies have been challenged by research in recent decades that supports claims of representational thought in early infancy. In this chapter I consider what alternative a naturalistic, pragmatic theory based on experience and meaning may offer on the beginnings of development in infancy. First,...

  7. 4 Toddling toward Childhood
    (pp. 87-116)

    Perhaps the most dramatic transformation in the human life span is the transition from infant to child that occurs between the ages of nine months and three years. A list of just some of the changes involved suggests the ongoing drama: increasing mobility, from crawling to walking to running; learning first words and making sentences; weaning from breast or bottle to regular family meals; gaining control over excretory functions; participating in social peer groups. The most overtly obvious changes during this phase are in physical size, mobility, and dexterity; but equally dramatic is the acquisition and use of speech. As...

  8. 5 Experiential Semantics of First Words
    (pp. 117-148)

    Learning to use words launches the toddler into a social world of a different kind than she experienced previously. Using language enables the child to “escape” the private mind of infancy and begin to join the communities of mind that surround her. In this chapter I consider the processes involved in this move and the pros and cons of theories that have been proposed to explain children’s almost universal success in making this leap forward, as well as significant individual and cultural variations in the pace and style of word learning in the second year. Along the way I discuss...

  9. 6 Entering the Symbolic World
    (pp. 149-178)

    Children of two to four years ask and answer questions, listen to stories, report on their activities, remember episodes from their past lives, plan for coming events, engage in dramatic play and storytelling, and learn about the natural world and about adult activities such as work or religion, among the myriad linguistically dependent experiences of modern life. These various enterprises require more complex minds than those that supported their activities in the first two years of life, including that of word learning. Although there is no direct way to observe how minds change during this period of life, we can...

  10. 7 Finding Oneself in Time
    (pp. 179-208)

    An experiential revolution is under way in the child’s mind during the preschool years. The private mental life of the child is invaded by ideas, beliefs, and categories from other people, as well as storied accounts of the past and future, other times and other places. Of course these riches are not all taken in at once. Just as the infant, when she first encountered her private world, slowly accrued structure and meaning over months, so do children, as they begin to garner ideas, concepts, and knowledge about things unseen and un-seeable from encounters with representational language, slowly shift meanings...

  11. 8 Entering a Community of Minds
    (pp. 209-238)

    The idea that infants and young children have “private minds” that gradually open up to the awareness of others’ meanings as they become open to social and cultural messages through verbal and other symbolic means has been a major theme throughout this book. In this chapter I explore the ways in which the child’s access to the beliefs and knowledge of the social-cultural world radically changes her perspective on the mental life of both others and herself, and the ways in which access to other people’s knowledge, imaginative creations, and counterfactual speculations brings about a “symbiosis of brain and the...

  12. 9 The Study of Developing Young Minds
    (pp. 239-268)

    In this book I have aimed to provide a sense of the coherence of development over the first five years of a child’s life. Taking an experiential perspective on the process has revealed how individual children, through specific encounters in social interactions, consolidate the sense of self and move into full participation in their particular cultural world. Each child finds a different path through this developmental maze; no modal child stands for the whole group. Yet at a higher level of generality, the processes of development, and the systems in play in these years, set constraints and contexts for the...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 269-276)
  14. References
    (pp. 277-300)
  15. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 301-304)
  16. Index
    (pp. 305-315)