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The Scientist in the Crib byAlison Gopnik, Andrew N. Meltzoff and Patricia K. Kuhl. Reviewed by Kristina Lerman January 2003 How do children acquire the ability to take light signals and transform them into concepts of other things and people? How and when do they figure out that other people have desires different from theirs, and indeed may conflict with them? How do they transform sound waves into individual words, independent of the speaker, turn words into concepts, and concepts into meaning? These are the questions that have driven the professional as well as personal interests of the authors of “The Scientist in the Crib.” Understandably the authors, developmental psychologists, focus on the behavioral, psychological and philosophical issues surrounding early learning rather than discussing the neurological basis for learning in the brain. While they can’t present a complete picture of the learning process, the ideas and experiments they discuss are fascinating. The book has two central theses – the first soundly backed by scientific evidence. The authors claim that three factors enable the incredible progress children make in the first few years of life: innate knowledge, superior learning ability, and dedicated teachers evolved to be ideally suited to the teaching task. The evidence that children are already born knowing certain things is extensive. For example, babies seem to be aware already from birth of some of the physical properties of objects. A newborn infant will follow a
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