The Arts and Human Development: A Psychological Study of the Artistic Process

By Howard Gardner | Go to book overview

FOUR
THE WORLD OF SYMBOLS

THE BROKEN COOKIE

One afternoon my 20-month-old daughter was seated in a high chair having a glass of milk. "Give me a cookie," she asked. She took a bite from the butter cookie, then placed it on the tray in front of her. She took a look at the remaining piece and said, "It's a boat." I took a look at the fragment and thought that, indeed, one could see the prow of a ship on one side. Then she picked up the cookie with both hands and tugged at it, breaking the fragment. "Oh! The boat broke," she exclaimed.

Six months later, while on a trip to the seashore, I sat down with her near the water's edge and we dangled our feet in the surf. Spying a particularly lovely seashell, I picked it up and showed it to her. "Isn't it pretty?" I asked. My daughter looked at it for hardly a moment, scooped it up, and put it in her mouth. I asked her to take it out, reminding her not to put foreign objects in her mouth. She then threw the shell away.

These two incidents help define the extent to which a young child, at the dawn of symbol use, is involved in the artistic process. In the anecdote about the cookie, we have a symbolic and potentially artistic interaction. My daughter was not only correctly labeling the object as a cookie, but was transforming the cookie into a new symbolic object. Her gestalt perception discerned a resemblance between the cookie and a boat and she revealed the new meaning of the object in a public communication. Already she was using the materials of her environment to make a novel object acceptable to herself and to other persons. Then she went on to give the newly-designated object a life of its own by

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The Arts and Human Development: A Psychological Study of the Artistic Process
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures, Tables, and Works of Art viii
  • Preface and Overview xi
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Introduction to the Paperback Edition xxi
  • One - The Relationship of Art to Human Development 1
  • Two - The Three Systems in Animals and Infants 53
  • Three - From Mode to Symbol 88
  • Four - The World of Symbols 125
  • Summary 172
  • Five - Experimental Research on Artistic Development 178
  • Six - Achieving Mastery 242
  • Concluding Remarks 292
  • Seven - The Relationship of the Arts to Science, Illness, and Truth 301
  • Bibliographical Notes 351
  • Author Index 383
  • Subject Index 389
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