The Mind's Staircase: Exploring the Conceptual Underpinnings of Children's Thought and Knowledge

The Mind's Staircase: Exploring the Conceptual Underpinnings of Children's Thought and Knowledge

The Mind's Staircase: Exploring the Conceptual Underpinnings of Children's Thought and Knowledge

The Mind's Staircase: Exploring the Conceptual Underpinnings of Children's Thought and Knowledge

Synopsis

The shortcomings of Piaget's theory of intellectual development are well-known. Less clear is what sort of theory should be devised to replace it. This volume describes the current "main contenders," including neo-Piagetian, neo-connectionist, neo-innatist and sociocultural models. Its contributors conclude that none of these models are adequate because each one implies a view of the human mind which is either too general, too particular, or too modular. A collaborative program of research -- seven years in the making -- is then described, which gives support to a newly emerging synthesis of these various positions.

Excerpt

This volume had its origin in two theoretical developments, both of which took place in the early 1980s. The first of these was the attempt on the part of a number of psychologists with an interest in Piaget's theory of intellectual development, to rework his classic system in the light of recent developments in learning theory and information science (e.g., Case, 1985; Fischer, 1982; Halford, 1982; Pascual-Leone &Goodman, 1979). The second was the attempt on the part of a number of psychologists with an interest in Chomsky's theory of language, to rework the same classic Piagetian system in terms of recent developments in linguistics and in neuroscience (Carey 1986; Feldman, 1983; Fodor, 1982; Gardner, 1983; Keil, 1984).

As might be expected, the new theories that resulted from these two endeavors were quite different. The view of the mind that resulted from the first enterprise was that of a general or all-purpose computing device, whose basic capacities undergo periodic changes in the course of development. According to this view, as these basic capacities change, the mind acquires the potential for acquiring new and more sophisticated control structures, as well as new data structures and skills of increasing complexity. The second endeavor gave rise to another view, which also utilized the computational metaphor. However, in this case the mind was seen as a modular computing device, each of whose modules has its own unique capacities and structures. The theory was that, as these various capacities change, each of the structures to which it gives rise changes as well. However, because each of the capacities is seen as modular, each set of structures is hypothesized to change in its . . .

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