The developmental view sailing in ulysses boat we

This preview shows page 165 - 167 out of 308 pages.

The Developmental View: Sailing in Ulysses’ Boat We think that neither of these pictures gets the facts of devel- opment right. There probably are parts of the babies’ program that mature, and babies probably do learn some things by de- tecting associations in the input and associating inputs with outputs. But that can’t be the whole story or even most of the story. Most of us who have sat face-to-face with babies and young children for a long time find the caterpillar analogy pretty implausible, but we find the dinner bell analogy pretty implausible, too. Within developmental psychology there are many different theories about how babies’ understanding of the world changes, with many different ideas about the balance between maturation and experience. Our own view is that children’s whole conception of people, objects, and words changes radically in the first three years of life. And it changes because of what children find out about the world. We already said that babies start out with complex, abstract, coherent representations of the world and rules for manipulating them. They use those representations and rules to make sense of their experience. And they also use them to What Scientists Have Learned About Children’s Minds / 149
make predictions about what the world will be like. But once babies have done this, they can compare what they experience with what they predicted. When there are discrepancies, they can modify their representations and rules. When they see a new pattern in their experiences, they can create new repres- entations and rules to capture that pattern. Often, babies seem to change a lot of representations and rules at once, rather ab- ruptly. The new representations and rules lead to new experi- ences and predictions, and the process of creating and testing ideas starts over again. What we experience interacts with what we already know about the world to produce new knowledge, which enables us to have new experiences and to make and test new predictions, which enables us to produce further knowledge, and so on. The philosopher Otto Neurath compared knowledge to a boat we rebuild as we sail in it. To keep afloat during his thirty years of wandering, Ulysses had to constantly repair and re- build the boat he lived in. Each new storm or calm meant an alteration in the design. By the end of the journey hardly any- thing remained of the original vessel. That is an apt metaphor for our view of cognitive development. We begin with many beliefs about the world, and those beliefs allow us to under- stand what’s going on around us and to act—they let us nav- igate our way around. But as we do, we get new information that makes us change our beliefs and therefore understand and act in new ways. We see this sort of change in many different areas of chil- dren’s development. Babies start out linking their own internal feelings to the expressions of other people. That link lets them imitate and flirt, and puts babies and parents in that delightful,

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture