THE SCIENTIST IN THE CRIB by Alison Gopnik

THE SCIENTIST IN THE CRIB

Minds, Brains, and How Children Learn

KIRKUS REVIEW

An informal and entertaining yet authoritative look at the science of babies” minds. The three research psychologists, all of whom are parents, and two of whom, Meltzoff and Kuhl, are married to each other, write about child development as though they were speaking directly to parents they know. As their title indicates, the authors find parallels between babies and scientists: both, they say, formulate theories, make and test predictions, seek explanations, do experiments, and revise what they know based on new evidence. They show specifically how babies learn about people and objects, and how they acquire language. Their second analogy likens the baby’s brain to a biological computer designed by evolution and possessing at birth powerful programs ready to run. From the beginning, the infant’s brain is able to translate information from the world into representations that experience then enables it to modify into more complex and abstract representations. As babies interact with the world, they reprogram themselves with even more powerful and accurate programs. Everything a baby sees, hears, smells, tastes, or touches affects its brain’s wiring, and other people—parents, siblings, caregivers—naturally and mostly unconsciously promote and influence these changes. The authors conclude that artificial interventions, such as using flash cards or classical music tapes to create a smarter baby are at best useless and at worst distractions from normal interactions. We do not, they say, need experts to tell us how to raise our children, but we are losing the time and the opportunity to do what parents have always done—exercise their innate ability to teach their children. Solutions to that problem, they caution, are best provided by a scientifically well-educated citizenry, hence the present work. An exceptionally readable and reassuring guide. (For a highly critical view of current interpretations of brain science, see John T. Bruer’s The Myth of the First Three Years, p. TKTK.) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-688-15988-5
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1999




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