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Young Minds in Social Worlds

Young Minds in Social Worlds

Experience, Meaning, and Memory

Katherine Nelson

ISBN 9780674034860

Publication date: 03/30/2010

Katherine Nelson re-centers developmental psychology with a revived emphasis on development and change, rather than foundations and continuity. She argues that children be seen not as scientists but as members of a community of minds, striving not only to make sense, but also to share meanings with others.

A child is always part of a social world, yet the child's experience is private. So, Nelson argues, we must study children in the context of the relationships, interactive language, and culture of their everyday lives.

Nelson draws philosophically from pragmatism and phenomenology, and empirically from a range of developmental research. Skeptical of work that focuses on presumed innate abilities and the close fit of child and adult forms of cognition, her dynamic framework takes into account whole systems developing over time, presenting a coherent account of social, cognitive, and linguistic development in the first five years of life.

Nelson argues that a child's entrance into the community of minds is a slow, gradual process with enormous consequences for child development, and the adults that they become. Original, deeply scholarly, and trenchant, Young Minds in Social Worlds will inspire a new generation of developmental psychologists.


  • Takes a pragmatic, experiential perspective on the process of early development to reveal how children obtain a sense of self and an understanding of the world around them through social interactions. Emphasizing that each child finds a different path through this developmental process, she argues that those studying children must assume a process orientation to address how the mind-culture symbiosis occurs for normally developing children...She makes a cogent case for adopting a developmental-systems approach in which systems, conceptualized as undergoing continuous dynamic change, need to maintain a coherence across change, a continuity of the whole over time, and a flexibility in the face of strong individual differences. This allows one to view children not as little scientists working to understand domain-specific issues but as emerging members of “communities of minds” striving to make sense of the world around them and to share that meaning with others.

    —R. B. Stewart, Choice


  • Katherine Nelson is Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Emerita, at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Book Details

  • 330 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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