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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Patricia Brockman, MD (Ochsner Clinic Foundation)
Description: The authors propose that the origin of humans' highest mental abilities, their ability to symbolize and think, stems from our emotions. They challenge the overemphasis of genetic determinism in the nature vs. nurture controversy and show that it is the emotional signaling between infant and caretaker during nurturing interactions that evolve into creative problem solving and logical, reflective thought. The authors explain how this important element, emotion, is missing from current theories of cognitive and language development and show support for its validity from cognitive neuroscience research. The significant cultural and evolutionary implications for this theory are also an essential part of this book.
Purpose: It is written for behavioral and social scientists interested in language, cognitive development, and mental health. In addition to unifying our knowledge in several scientific and cultural areas, this theory has also shown promise in addressing the core psychological deficits in children with autism and other developmental disorders. A broader societal application is also provided where cultures have been shown to flourish and advance when children are nurtured with these co-regulated emotional interactions and regress when they are deprived of them.
Audience: This book would be of great interest to a wide range of behavioral and social scientists who study and apply learning theory in their various fields. The authors reflect varied backgrounds themselves.
Features: After a comprehensive introduction, the book is divided into four parts. In Part I, the authors identify and describe the critical learning steps, or functional/emotional developmental capabilities that build on one another and lead to symbolic thinking. In Part II, the authors show how the evolutionary line leading to human intelligence reflects a gradual progression of these increasing functional capacities for co-regulated communication. In Part III, using the functional/emotional framework of their theory, the authors revise current thinking about language, intelligence, and the development and functioning of the brain. The last chapter in this section describes their work with children with autism and other developmental challenges as supportive evidence for their theory. In Part IV, the authors assert that the same formative emotional processes that lead to symbol formation, intimacy, empathy, and reflective thinking are instrumental in a culture's shared sense of humanity and reality, which connect the individual to society and characterize the way society functions.
Assessment: This book introduces an important component to our understanding of human development that adds to our knowledge across a wide range of study, including cognitive neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry, child development and others. This theory has even broader applications in the study of nonhuman primates as well as our current and future view of the global community.