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The Cradle of Thought: Exploring the Origins of Thinking 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195219548
ISBN-10: 0195219546
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Editorial Reviews


"Packed with appealing anecdotes about the loveable things kids do and say. . .along with more disturbing pictures, drawn from Hobson's work with autistic children, of how badly things can go wrong. . .The notion that our minds develop through other people seems, intuitively, to be along the right lines." --Robert Hanks,The Daily Telegraph

"There is much to admire in this immensely readable book, and Hobson is both an outstanding scholar and passionate about his subject. His human and clinical concern for people comes through clearly in his writing, and his book will be a welcome contribution to the debate in cognitive development." --Simon Baron-Cohen, Nature

"How does a child develop the capacity to think? In particular, how does it develop a sense of self, of the existence of other persons with minds of their own, and of its relationship to these others? . . .For Hobson, the key lies in that one word, relationship. . .Any parent reading his account will recognise it makes sense." --Steven Rose, Sunday Times (London)

About the Author

Hobson is Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the Tavistock Clinic and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at University College, London. He works clinically as a psychotherapist with adults as well as being the Director of the Unit for the Study of Lifespan Development.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (March 25, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195219546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195219548
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.3 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,724,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Karlen Lyons-ruth on January 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a terrific and groundbreaking book. Peter Hobson presents a radical and scientifically coherent view of the development of intersubjectivity and its relation to symbolic forms of meaning. He carefully details the developmental science that requires a fully social and sharing human child as the medium for the emergence of consciousness. In laying out his arguments he offers a comprehensive overview of the research base on early relatedness-- from face-to-face affective communication, to social referencing, to language, to theory of mind, to the evolutionary background of these human capacities. In the way that he brings together relatedness and symbolic meaning he seamlessly heals the Cartesian split between mind and body and in doing so also heals the rift between self and other that has been the conceptual error of the 20th century.

This is a paradigm shift that can unite scientists and clinicians alike. His insights anticipate the emerging findings from affective neuroscience and provide a context for understanding why and how the social brain has evolved. And he is a pleasure to read. His writing is in equal parts incisive exploration and pure poetry. I recommend it highly.
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Strengths: Hobson finds a middle way between being too academic (Stueber (e.g.)) and being too popular (like Goleman) by addressing the real concerns of parents concerned about their children. He presents a convincing case that many of the symptoms of autism are a function of the failure of affective empathy, symbolization, and imitation. The emotional life of the individual is the matrix from which human intelligence emerges (hence, the title). Hobson overlaps in many places with - but ultimately has a different approach than - Simon Baron-Cohen (in Mindblindness: An Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind, (1995), Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press). Baron-Cohen's complex decomposition of human relatedness into the modules de-emphasizes the affective dimension (in contrast to Hobson). Hobson restores the balance in the nature-nurture debate back in the direction of a nurturing, caring environment. Even Bruno Bettelheim, whose theory of autism has perhaps been (un)fairly described as the "icebox mother," clearly wrote of the "autistic disposition." The child brings much to the relationship and when its affective-empathic responsiveness is missing, problems arise. For Hobson, empathy is and remains the cradle of thought.
Weaknesses: It is hard to find weaknesses with this book except perhaps the qualification that it is limited to autism. That need not be a criticism unless one engages in an overhasty generalization from symptoms and failures in this disease of empathy to overall emergence of intelligence. Hobson does not escape from the chicken-egg syndrome--that the child's lack of responsiveness to its warm emotional milieu causes the latter to be fatigued and evaporate. Yet if the milieu is not nurturing or even threatening, then the child's responsiveness shuts off. (But no one else escapes either.)
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