The Human Spark: The Science of Human Development

Jerome Kagan. Basic, $28.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-465-02982-2
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)
Reviewed on: 03/25/2013
Release date: 06/01/2013
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Ebook - 353 pages - 978-0-465-03773-5
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