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The intended audience for this book is anyone who has reason to read about human cognitive development. We hope and expect that it will be comprehensible and interesting to readers with a very wide range of backgrounds: people interested in the topic but with little or no background in psychology; undergraduate and graduate students in general, developmental, cognitive, educational, and perhaps social psychology, various fields of education, and possibly other social sciences; perhaps even postdoctoral professionals in these areas. It certainly should be suitable as a text for either an undergraduate or a graduate course.
We include several features to make the book useful to a wide variety of readers. We cite references in the text, especially secondary sources that would provide quick access to much of the primary research literature in an area. Some readers will find these quite useful; others obviously will not. On the other side, we have explained the meaning of most technical terms used, even those that people with only a little background in psychology might know. We try to give a sense of the issues in the field, which we hope conveys the big picture of cognitive development. We have also tried to make the exposition straightforward and readable, and perhaps a little lighter and less formal than textbooks sometimes are. Our goal is to tell the story of children's thinking and how it develops. We personally do not enjoy reading most textbooks and therefore would like this one to be, if not actually enjoyable, at least not wholly unenjoyable.
This edition of the book differs from the third edition in a number of ways. We have thoroughly updated the chapters. Because of the "baby boom" in research on infancy we have expanded that chapter into twoone on perception and one on cognition. This emphasis reflects the dramatic surge of interest in early competencies in recent years. We reorganized two previously chronological chapters on preschool and grade school/adolescence into two new chapters. We labeled one "Representation and Concepts" and the other "Reasoning and Problem Solving." All of the information on theory of mind now is in the (formerly) social cognition chapter. Thus, the new edition is completely topically organized, after the two chapters on infancy that set the stage for later development.
Other changes include additional theoretical frameworks in the introductory chapter. In keeping with recent trends in the field, the book has less emphasis on Piaget and his developmental-stages conception of cognitive growth, and more emphasis on information-processing (including connectionism), sociocultural, theory-change, neo-Piagetian, neuroscience, and constraint approaches. We give special attention to new or rejuvenated areas, such as toddlers' representational abilities, young children's theories of mind, autobiographical memory, suggestibility, variability in the use of strategies, and biological or other kinds of constraints on cognitive development.
More generally we hope to convey both the fascinating nature of children's thinking and the excitement and change in work in this area. Knowledge about cognitive development is very much a work in progress.
We wish to thank various people who offered suggestions for this edition or the previous one: Brian Ackerman, Joseph Beato, Susan Carey, Darlene DeMarie, M Jeffrey Farrar, Derek Montgomery, Marylynn Pfeiffer, James Probert, Carolyn Shantz, and Allison Suffield. We also thank Cynthia Hardin for her assistance with the preparation of this edition, as well as Jennifer Gilliland at Prentice Hall.
John H. Flavell Patricia H. Miller Scott A. Miller