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The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind Paperback – December 26, 2000
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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A trio of nationally respected childhood-development scientists hailing from Berkeley and the University of Washington has authored The Scientist in the Crib to correct a disparity: while popular books about science speak to intelligent, perceptive adults who simply want to learn, books about babies typically just give advice, heavy on the how-to and light on the why. The authors write, "It's as if the only place you could read about evolution was in dog-breeding manuals, not in Stephen Jay Gould; as if, lacking Stephen Hawking's insights, the layman's knowledge of the cosmos was reduced to 'How to find the constellations.'"
The Scientist in the Crib changes that. Standing on the relatively recent achievements of the young field of cognitive science (pointing out that not so long ago, babies were considered only slightly animate vegetables--"carrots that could cry"), the authors succinctly and articulately sum up the state of what's now known about children's minds and how they learn. Using language that's both friendly and smart (and using equally accessible metaphors, everything from Scooby-Doo to The Third Man), The Scientist in the Crib explores how babies recognize and understand their fellow humans, interpret sensory input, absorb language, learn and devise theories, and take part in building their own brains.
Such science makes for great reading, but will likely prove even more useful to readers with a scientist in their own crib, acting as tonic to pseudoscientific how-to baby books that recommend everything "from flash cards, to Mozart tapes, to Better Baby Institutes." As the authors put it, "We want to understand children, not renovate them." --Paul Hughes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Although Gopnik, Meltzoff and Kuhl have each conducted groundbreaking research into the cognitive development of infants and its philosophical implications, this book evokes less excitement than their more straightforward research. With breathless enthusiasm, the authors review recent findings in developmental psychology and explain, in a tone somewhat self-consciously aimed at the "lay reader," their hopes that they will help answer fundamental philosophical questions. They focus on Kuhl's work in early infant phonetic recognition and language acquisition, Meltzoff's work on imitation in infants and Gopnik's exploration of philosophical development in infants, as well as other important work in the field. How do babies learn? they ask, answering that "they are born knowing a great deal, they learn more and we are designed to teach them." They also give refreshing emphasis to the evolutionary basis for infant-caregiver interactions. For example, they explain that "motherese"Athe high-pitched, slightly louder than normal speech with elongated and articulated consonants and vowelsAis not only preferred by babies but also optimally suited to their developing auditory systems. It's ironic, though, that these authors, who from the first pages decry ill-informed condescension to children, should be themselves so unthinkingly condescending in their tone and presentation: "children and scientists," they repeatedly aver, "are the best learners in the world." Agent, Katinka Matson, Brockman Inc.; 5-city author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Several people gave this book one star, complaining essentially that it wasn't a how-to book to tell them how to make their babies smarter. Besides the obvious advice of paying attention to your children and reading them a book now and then, what this research shows is that what we do as parents has been wired into us for the maximal development of our children. There aren't any books out there that you can read which give you a plan for making your child smarter, and if they're telling you that, they're wrong.
I feel this book establishes a good frame of reference for understanding where an infant's brain starts out in its development from a fussing ball of arms and legs to something that approximates a human adult in logic and emotion. Many people doubtless still believe that infants come into the world a blank slate, with no knowledge or strategies for learning, and the research presented in this book shows us that's just not so. I recommend this book to any of my pregnant friends who I feel might be interested in gaining a glimpse of the amazing development that's happening inside their baby's brain.
The tone of the book is chatty, but the content is substantial. The authors discuss the philosophers as well as the scientists who are working in this area. I don't suppose that the average new parent is interested in wading into Chomsky, Ryle or Descartes, but this book actually makes it interesting and compelling.
The book is broken down into the acquisition of particular mental skills. The authors thesis is that babies learn using, more or less, the scientific method, forming hypotheses and then testing them emperically. (The title of the book is a clever word play, referring to this theory, while simultaneously demonstrating what adult scientists are learning from their empirical studies.) While this may seem pretensious, the authors actually make a pretty good case for this theory.
The acquisition of language deviates somewhat from this general theoretical method, but the authors have some fascinating experimental data to illustrate the way babies actually learn language.
In short, this book is highly recommended, not just to new parents, but also to anyone interested in childhood cognitive development or what can be known about the workings of the human brain.
When I was working on a master's degree in linguistics, I was exposed to Noam Chomsky's views on the acquisition of language. It was very intriguing. I learned that the hypothesis that there is a "mother tongue" for all language, called "the hearth language" is a fallacy. It is the brain that encourages speech. Other animals have the same "structures" that we doand do not "speak."
When I purchase books through AMAZON, I always look through what is available in the "used" portion of their offerings. I have not ever been disappointed with the quality of books that I find there. I enjoy the thought that I am helping small businesses succeed and get rid of inventory so they can expand their resources.
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