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  • Cited by 78
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
March 2017
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Book description

The Constructive Mind is an integrative study of the psychologist Frederic Bartlett's (1886–1969) life, work and legacy. Bartlett is most famous for the idea that remembering is constructive and for the concept of schema; for him, 'constructive' meant that human beings are future-oriented and flexibly adaptive to new circumstances. This book shows how his notion of construction is also central to understanding social psychology and cultural dynamics, as well as other psychological processes such as perceiving, imagining and thinking. Wagoner contextualises the development of Bartlett's key ideas in relation to his predecessors and contemporaries. Furthermore, he applies Bartlett's constructive analysis of cultural transmission in order to chart how his ideas were appropriated and transformed by others that followed. As such this book can also be read as a case study in the continuous reconstruction of ideas in science.


‘In this comprehensive and insightful book, Brady Wagoner deftly analyses the progression of Bartlett's work. This is no mere re-evaluation - Wagoner renders Bartlett as a contemporary thinker, and a force for renewal in psychology.'

Steven D. Brown - University of Leicester

'Brady Wagoner brilliantly re-examines Bartlett’s life, science, and influence in this scholarly and deeply engaged book. Part fascinating scientific biography, part impassioned plea for a more open, context-sensitive experimental psychology, this is essential reading for all students of memory, mind, and culture.'

John Sutton - Macquarie University, Sydney

'Wagoner delivers an engaging, insightful, and provocative analysis of Bartlett's life and work. This important book connects historical perspectives with contemporary issues, forcefully reminding us how Bartlett's insights remain crucial today.'

Daniel L. Schacter - Harvard University, Massachusetts

'… essential reading for scholars of memory, but also is a helpful, quick (and fun) read for all those whose work in some way is impacted by Bartlett’s oeuvre.'

Grant J. Rich Source: PsychCRITICS

'Brady Wagoner’s The Constructive Mind: Bartlett’s Psychology in Reconstruction is an impressive scholarly achievement … Wagoner’s book is also a provocative and important one, that underscores the way in which academic psychology has appropriated - and misappropriated - significant ideas, in the service of its own ideological ends. … For those who do not know his work, it may be a startling revelation of what psychology might have been had it followed Bartlett’s path rather than the decidedly more reductive one it in fact pursued. … it is a significant contribution to the history of the behavioral sciences and a valuable corrective to those too-well-circulated stories that serve to shore up psychology’s ill-conceived ambition to cordon off human behavior from the messy stuff of social life.'

Mark Freeman Source: Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

'… the book is a very broad and interesting presentation of Bartlett as a theoretician who combined psychology with anthropology a century ago. The combination of the historical and the presentist aims is successful …'

Csaba Pléh Source: Culture & Psychology

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