Context and Development

Context and Development

Context and Development

Context and Development


The purpose of this book is to explore meaningful integrations of developmental processes and functioning with conceptualizations of "context" -- a term traditionally denoting physical settings, social arenas, or perceptual or social backdrops in relation to a focal point. However, the study of context has taken a considerably more unique and vibrant form in recent years -- the term is becoming more than a substitute for background independent variables. Rather, the contributions of context to behavior, thought, feelings -- and vice versa -- are becoming central issues in many research domains.

This text is a collection of empirical and theoretical accounts for understanding context; its focus is on integrating the study of context with the science of developmental psychology. Although the authors work in many different areas of the field, and with different populations, they all converge on a central methodological/conceptual theme of contextualism, which is presented as the dynamic integration of intraindividual factors with environmental and social/environmental factors.


There is a historical context for the present volume. The editors have known each other since 1979 and have both done a fair amount of research on the development of spatial cognition. We have each received our doctoral training and conducted our early research in the traditional experimental psychology mode focusing on "cognitive development." By 1985, we were convinced that "cognitive development" was more than "cognitive," and we seriously questioned the artificial, but then current, distinction between "cognitive" and "social" development. For both of us, there was more to our dissatisfaction than simply issues of laboratory versus naturalistic research strategies, Piaget versus "behavior ecology," or Bronfenbrennerian exosystems. More and more over time, the concept of "context" was batted between us as an important yet missing ingredient in much of developmental research.

In the 1985-1986 academic year, the State of Tennessee began funding what were termed "Centers of Excellence" in a variety of academic disciplines throughout the state's university and college systems. The faculty of the Department of Psychology at Memphis State University applied for, and received, funding for the Center for Applied Psychological Research. This center has now been designated an "Accomplished Center of Excellence," and the continued funding has provided for the hiring of a large number of faculty, the financial support for a great deal of research projects, and the sponsoring each year of a number of professional conferences.

Bob Cohen submitted a proposal for a conference, entitled "Context and . . .

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