Casting the Theory Net Wide

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Originally published in Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books, 1998, Vol 43(10), 663–665. Review of “Words, Thoughts, and Theories” by Alison Gopnik and Andrew N. Meltzoff (see record 1997-97208-000). Gopnik and Meltzoff begin by raising a question that is perhaps just a tad younger than human knowledge itself: From where does knowledge come? Cognitive developmental psychology has been in a state of disarray since the dethroning of the theory that seemed to hold it all together. What Gopnik and Meltzoff show is that the theory theory is one way we might pull the evidence back together. We might be able to approach every knowledge domain as a case of theory building in the young child. Perhaps we may even find similarities across domains at certain ages, although the authors focus more on environmental evidence than developmental level as the inspiration for new levels of theorizing. They note how theories evolve at different rates in each domain depending on available evidence. Lillard believes that if the greatest merit of this book is its boldly laying out, over novel territory, a theory of how knowledge evolves in the individual, it seems its downside is in occasional miscastings of evidence or theoretical positions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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