The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive Development

The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive Development

The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive Development

The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive Development


This definitive volume is the result of collaboration by top scholars in the field of children's cognition.

New edition offers an up-to-date overview of all the major areas of importance in the field, and includes new data from cognitive neuroscience and new chapters on social cognitive development and language

Provides state-of-the-art summaries of current research by international specialists in different areas of cognitive development

Spans aspects of cognitive development from infancy to the onset of adolescence

Includes chapters on symbolic reasoning, pretend play, spatial development, abnormal cognitive development and current theoretical perspectives

About the Author

Usha Goswami is Professor of Education at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge. She is also Director of the Centre for Neuroscience in Education, which carries out research into the brain basis of literacy, numeracy, dyslexia, and dyscalculia. Dr Goswami has received numerous awards for her work, including the British Psychology Society Spearman Medal, the Norman Geschwind-Rodin Prize for Dyslexia research, and fellowships from the Leverhulme Trust in the United Kingdom, the National Academy of Education in the United States, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany.


Since the first edition of this Handbook, the field of developmental cognitive neuroscience has begun in earnest. in my view, this will have a lasting impact on our understanding of childhood cognitive development. Neuroscience has the potential to have a transformative effect on our theories and our explanatory frameworks. This is because understanding the neural codes that the brain uses to organize and transmit information will provide insights into developmental causal mechanisms. These insights may transform our views about cognitive development.

For example, the formats that are provided by neural coding mechanisms will inevitably affect how the brain develops a cognitive system from sensory inputs. One powerful metaphor is the idea of neural ensembles, groups of active cells that represent a particular percept or concept via the spatial or temporal patterning of their firing. Different cells in the same ensemble (neural network) that represent a percept or concept will be linked to each other, so that when there is noise in the input, or partial information, the ensemble can still activate–the cells that do fire will perform a pattern-completion process and trigger the other cells that represent the percept or concept. This pattern-completion process is in principle equivalent to what is traditionally termed generalization, as it enables abstraction and categorization–argued by Quinn (chapter 5, this volume) to be the primitive in all behavior and mental functioning.

Indeed, neuroimaging reveals that even the brains of young infants show sustained activity based on abstracted dependencies in the absence of sensory input, for example, when a hidden object disappears unexpectedly (Kaufman, Mareschal, & Johnson, 2003). the sensory processing of spatio-temporal structure can in principle yield the abstracted dependencies traditionally discussed as “prototypes” of concepts, as “causal knowledge” about physical systems, and as “naïve psychology” (e.g., Rosch, 1978; Shultz, 1982; Wellman & Gelman, 1998; see Goswami, 2008, for a fuller discussion). Sensory learning is rapid, and so the brain is frequently responding not to a particular sensory event itself, but to the abstract dependencies that are typical of that class of events, or to the . . .

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