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The Human Spark: The Science of Human Developmentby Jerome Kagan
Synopses & Reviews
As infants we are rife with potential. For a short time, we have before us a seemingly infinite number of developmental paths. Soon, however, we become limited to certain paths as we grow into unique products of our genetics and experience. But what factors account for the variation—in skills, personalities, values—that results? How do experiences shape what we bring into the world?
In The Human Spark, pioneering psychologist Jerome Kagan offers an unflinching examination of personal, moral, and cultural development that solidifies his place as one of the most influential psychologists of the past century. In this definitive analysis of the factors that shape the human mind, Kagan explores the tension between biology and the environment. He reviews major advances in the science of development over the past three decades and offers pointed critiques and new syntheses. In so doing, Kagan calls out the shortcomings of the modern fad for neuroscience, shows why theories of so-called attachment parenting are based on a misinterpretation of research, and questions the fields reflexive tendency to pathologize the behavior of the young. Most importantly, he reminds us that a life, however influenced by biology and upbringing, is still a tapestry to be woven, not an outcome to be endured.
A profound exploration of what is universal and what is individual in human development, The Human Spark is the result of a scientists lifelong quest to discover how we become who we are. Whether the reader is a first-time parent wondering what influence she, her genes, and the wider world will have on her child; an educator seeking insight into the development of her students; or simply a curious soul seeking self-knowledge, Kagan makes an expert and companionable guide.
"As developmental psychologist Kagan (The Nature of the Child) so astutely points out, a great deal of what we 'know' about human development isn't firmly anchored in empirical science. He aims to correct that by encouraging readers to question received knowledge about 'the forces that transform infants into children, children into adolescents, and adolescents into adults,' and he does so by presenting an insightful discussion of the epistemology of psychology, alongside biting critiques of the methodologies used in psychological research and the social applications of misinterpreted findings (he sees attachment parenting, for example, as woefully ill-advised). But Kagan, an emeritus professor of psychology at Harvard, does much more than merely naysay the misguided; he offers illuminating discussions of the impact of culture on childhood development, as when he analyzes the different responses of Japanese and American children when asked to describe an everyday cityscape, as well as intriguing arguments regarding emotions, mental illness, and the establishment of moral systems during adolescence. Kagan occasionally goes off topic, but this is nevertheless a fascinating summary of the current science behind human development from one of the leaders in the field. 26 b&w illus. (June 4)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
What makes a human a human? In The Human Spark, pioneering psychologist Jerome Kagan offers an answer in a sweeping narrative of our personal, moral, and cultural development. In this extended meditation on human psychology as well as the methods, successes, and failures of the scientists who study it. Kagan calls out the shortcomings of the modern fad for neuroscience, and questions psychiatrys quickness to pathologize the behavior of the young. More importantly, he reminds us that our lives, however influenced by biology and upbringing, are still a tapestry to be woven, not an outcome to be endured. Whether the reader is a first-time parent wondering what influence she, her genes, and the wider world will have on her child; an educator seeking insight into the development of her students; or simply a curious soul seeking self-knowledge, Kagan makes an expert and companionable guide.
In 1984, Basic published Harvard developmental psychologist Jerome Kagans The Nature of the Child, a book that challenged many of psychologys most deeply held assumptions about human development—arguing, for example, that early experience does not inexorably shape our lives and that the influence of the family is more subtle than had been supposed—and that went on to become a classic in its field.
In The Possibility of a Child, Kagan offers a sweeping narrative of development that solidifies his place as one of the most influential thinkers in the field of psychology. Taking into account how far the science of child development has advanced in the last 28 years—with the ascendancy of cognitive psychology, neurobiology, and molecular biology, as well as much deeper research into development on the broader human scale—Kagan explores the tension between influences of biology and environmental factors in development. This book will incorporate new research on the neurobiology and cognition of infants and children through the framework of the childs experience, the role of the local setting, the influence of social class, and the biological biases that each individual brings to her circumstances. Kagan also considers such issues as the degree to which early events affect later outcomes, whether children can actually have some understanding of math and physics in the crib, and the rise of the diagnosis of mental illness in children.
A profound exploration of what is universal and what is individual in human development, The Possibility of a Child is the result of a scientists lifelong quest to discover how we become who we are.
About the Author
Jerome Kagan is emeritus professor of psychology at Harvard University and one of the pioneers of the field of developmental psychology. The author of numerous books including The Nature of the Child and Galens Prophecy, he received the William James Award and the Distinguished Scientist Award from the American Psychological Association. Kagan is a member of The Institute for Medicine.
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Health and Self-Help » Child Care and Parenting » General