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The Social Influences on Cognitive Development


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Table of Contents

I. The Social Foundations of Cognitive Development
1. Introduction
2. Processes of Change: The ""How"" of Cognitive Development
3. The Sociocultural Context of Cognitive Development
II. The Development of Specific Higher Mental Functions in Social Context
4. Acquiring Knowledge: Intersubjectivity, Joint Attention, and Social Referencing
5. Remembering: The Social Construction of the Past
6. Solving and Learning to Solve Problems in Social Context
7. Constructing the Future: Planning in Social Context
8. Conclusions and Future Directions

About the Author

Mary Gauvain, PhD, is Professor of Psychology at the University of California at Riverside. She received her master's degree in Sociology of Education from Stanford University and her doctoral degree in Developmental Psychology from the University of Utah. She is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and has served on the Executive Committee of the APA Division of Developmental Psychology. She is also a member of the Society for Research in Child Development. Her research on children's cognitive development in social and cultural contexts is widely published and has been funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and The Spencer Foundation, among others.


"In this wonderful contribution to the study of children's intellectual development, Gauvain takes issue with the traditional view of cognition that describes what children do or think at a given age and neglects the physical, social, and emotional aspects that influence how children learn....Mary Gauvain's book will interest scholars, professionals, and students in a number of areas including child development, cognitive development, early childhood education, special education, and early intervention. There are several reasons why this book is a must-read. First, the book brings back to our attention the importance of understanding the processes of learning....A second reason why this book must be read revolves around its bold goals. The book reports Gauvain's tremendous undertaking in answering the following questions: How do we learn to think? Why do we end up thinking the way we do?....Third, the claim that social experience in coordination with biological processes guides developmental changes implies that educational practices, curriculum, instructional materials, and intervention programs are as important as genes in promoting development. Thus, it seems imperative to scholars, students, and professionals who work in children's education to understand that knowledge is not beyond children's perceiving and acting in the here and now....Fourth, Gauvain also alerts us to the fact that ontogenetic development is a unique solution to contextual challenges (tensions) articulated by an intelligent and flexible system within the realms of individuals' historical and sociocultural experiences....because the book is written in a provocative scholarly style, it elicits a profoundengagement with the text that leads to more exploratory thoughts. I admire such extraordinary analysis of development in the social context. I hope that my review encourages others to read and appreciate this book."--"American Journal of Psychology"
"In accord with her theoretical perspective, Gauvain takes the reader step by step through the theoretical arguments and empirical evidence, providing a highly readable and engaging scaffold through the relevant literature....a wonderful, theoretically deep and empirically broad review of what we know about the ways in which the activities and interactions in which children engage facilitate cognitive growth. Most impressive, this book is written in a way that will be engaging to those who are first approaching these ideas as well as to those who have been working with these ideas for years. In bringing together the sociocultural approach to cognitive development, Gauvain provides a road map for where we have been and where we need to go. Gauvain provides ample evidence that we must pay close attention to the social environment if we hope to understand how cognitive development occurs. Most exciting, by bringing this work together, Gauvain has pointed us to the questions that future research must answer."--"Contemporary Psychology"
"For those of us trained in a more individualistic approach to cognitive development, there is much to learn from Mary Gauvain's book....This book has a gentle way of provoking thoughts and raising ideas that you'll want to question further. This is a book for laying the ground. A jumping-off point. Use it for teaching. Lend it to your students. But make sure that you get it back."--"Journal of ChildPsychology and Psychiatry"
"In examining the question, 'How do we learn and why do we end up thinking the way we do?' Gauvain brings to the fore the vital role played by social context in children's cognition and learning, and offers illustrations from the lives of well-known individuals in her opening chapter....Her focus on four cognitive domains--attention, memory, problem-solving, and planning--is particularly useful. In examining these domains, which are usually discussed in information-processing language, through social-contextual lenses, Gauvain finally provides the erstwhile missing, though unquestionably essential, human touch and interpersonal perspective to otherwise cold computer analogs of mental activity."--"Readings"
.,."an engaging account of the social and cultural context she believes fosters children's cognitive development. This is an important contribution to a field that has been dominated by work from other perspectives....The book is well written and interesting, integrating both laboratory studies and naturalistic observations of child behavior. Gauvain's command of the professional literature is excellent. A must-have book for libraries serving undergraduate and graduate programs in psychology and education."--"Choice"

"Mary Gauvain has an interesting and important theory about what causes developmental changes in children, and she sets it out in her new book convincingly and with great verve. Her theory is that the underlying factor that produces cognitive developmental change is social interaction, and she documents this claim with an impressively wide range of evidence." --Peter Bryant, PhD, FRS, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford

"This is an outstanding summary of the social influences on children's thinking. Gauvain weaves cross-cultural and cognitive developmental research into a single tapestry that shows how children learn, remember, and solve problems in their everyday activities. She reviews major theories of cognitive development and uses activity theory as a framework to synthesize sociocognitive research. The book will be appreciated by students because it is coherent, readable, and up to date." --Scott Paris, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan

"This book provides a valuable integration of literatures that point to the importance of social context as a mechanism of cognitive change. In examining the role of social influences in the development of attention, memory, problem solving, and planning, Gauvain manages to integrate social interactional accounts with other efforts to identify mechanisms of development, such as Piagetian and information-processing approaches. She reviews relevant research as well as incorporating memoirs of notable people to illustrate varying contexts of cognitive development. This book will be a valuable supplementary text for undergraduate and graduate courses in psychology, child development, and education." --Barbara Rogoff, PhD, Foundation Professor of Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz

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