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7 - Cognitive Development

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 November 2009

Glen H. Elder
Affiliation:
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Elizabeth Jane Costello
Affiliation:
Duke University, North Carolina
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Summary

The study of cognitive development has been at the core of research in developmental psychology for more than 20 years. During this time, the field has witnessed the outlines of some major transformations in the conceptualization and study of cognition. Ironically, the most recent trends in research harken back to an earlier era of cognitive developmental science dating as far back as the late 19th century. In this chapter, we trace the evolution of theory and research on cognitive development, describing the forces that have shaped current thinking. We highlight this progression by drawing examples from the domain of memory because research on children's memory dates back a full century (e.g., Binet & Henri, 1894a, 1894b) and has generated an extensive data base from which to view the historical evolution of the field (Kail, 1990; Ornstein, 1978a; Schneider & Pressley, 1989). Moreover, recent trends in cognitive research are most dramatically highlighted by the changing nature of work on memory development (see, e.g., Fivush & Hudson, 1990; Morrison, 1987; Ornstein, Gordon, & Larus, 1992; Trabasso & Nickels, 1992).

Cognition and Development: A Historical Sketch

Approximately 100 years ago, two early giants in the field, James Mark Baldwin and Alfred Binet, laid the foundations for theory and research in cognitive development. Baldwin's structural theory constituted a very rich and dynamic framework for viewing children's cognition and development, a perspective that anticipated the Piagetian enterprise and in some ways was appropriated by it (Cairns, 1983, 1992; Cairns & Ornstein, 1979).

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Developmental Science , pp. 121 - 134
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1996

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