Conceptual Development: Piaget's Legacy

Conceptual Development: Piaget's Legacy

Conceptual Development: Piaget's Legacy

Conceptual Development: Piaget's Legacy


This book examines a key issue in current cognitive theories - the nature of representation. Each chapter is characterized by attempts to frame hot topics in cognitive development within the landscape of current developmental theorizing and the past legacy of genetic epistemology. The chapters address four questions that are fundamental to any developmental line of inquiry:

  • How should we represent the workings and contents of the mind?
  • How does the child construct mental models during the course of development?
  • What are the origins of these models? and
  • What accounts for the novelties that are the products and producers of developmental change?

These questions are situated in a historical context, Piagetian theory, and contemporary researchers attempt to trace how they draw upon, depart from, and transform the Piagetian legacy to revisit classic issues such as the child's awareness of the workings of mental life, the child's ability to represent the world, and the child's growing ability to process and learn from experience. The theoretical perspectives covered include constructivism, connectionism, theory-theory, information processing, dynamical systems, and social constructivist approaches. The research areas span imitation, mathematical reasoning, biological knowledge, language development, and theory of mind.

Written by major contributors to the field, this work will be of interest to students and researchers wanting a brief but in-depth overview of the contemporary field of cognitive development.


Ellin Kofsky Scholnick
University of Maryland, College Park

The Jean Piaget Society periodically returns to examine its intellectual roots. Recently, the society celebrated its founding with a symposium: Piaget's Theory: Prospects and Possibilities (publication edited by Beilin & Pufall, 1992; for editors' remarks, see Beilin & Pufall, 1992, pp. 311-326). At the end of his life, Piaget and his colleagues were in the midst of modifying his theory. Contributors to the symposium suggested that this late work clarified the central aims of the theory, provided a more specific analysis of developmental change than did Piaget's earlier work, and modified ideas about logical structure. Many past criticisms of Piaget had been unwarranted because they were misreadings of the substance and aims of the theory or these criticisms could be handled by extrapolations from the latest version of the theory (Beilin, 1992; see also Chapman, 1988; Lourenco & Machado, 1996). These modifications in Piaget's theory provided another example of the ongoing cycle of equilibration. These changes opened up new possibilities by widening the scope of the theory and by providing opportunities to increase its conceptual coherence. This assessment of Piaget was internal to the theory, and the source of the modification was partially internal to the theory, too. Piaget and his colleagues reorganized and modified the theory to close some gaps, and the product was evaluated by those working within the Genevan tradition.

In 1996, the 100th anniversary of Piaget's birth provided another occasion to celebrate. Another symposium, entitled Conceptual Development: Piaget's Legacy, explored Piaget's work from a different perspective, an . . .

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