A Dynamic Systems Approach to the Development of Cognition and Action presents a comprehensive and detailed theory of early human development based on the principles of dynamic systems theory. Beginning with their own research in motor, perceptual, and cognitive development, Thelen and Smith raise fundamental questions about prevailing assumptions in the field. They propose a new theory of the development of cognition and action, unifying recent advances in dynamic systems theory with current research in neuroscience and neural development. In particular, they show how by processes of exploration and selection, multimodal experiences form the bases for self-organizing perception-action categories.
Thelen and Smith offer a radical alternative to current cognitive theory, both in their emphasis on dynamic representation and in their focus on processes of change. Among the first attempt to apply complexity theory to psychology, they suggest reinterpretations of several classic issues in early cognitive development.
The book is divided into three sections. The first discusses the nature of developmental processes in general terms, the second covers dynamic principles in process and mechanism, and the third looks at how a dynamic theory can be applied to enduring puzzles of development.
What do laser lights, crystals, walking, reaching, and concepts have in common? All are complex dynamic systems. Over the last decade, the burgeoning fields of synergetics and nonlinear dynamics have shown in mathematically precise ways how such complex systems can produce emergent order from the cooperation of many simpler elements. A Dynamic Systems Approach to Development explores the value of dynamical systems principles for solving the enduring puzzles of development, including the ultimate source of change, the problems of continuity and discontinuities, and nonlinear outcomes and individual differences.
This companion volume to the forthcoming A Dynamic Systems Approach to the Development of Cognition and Action shows how the ideas of dynamic systems may form the basis for a new theory of human development. The problems considered include areas of motor development, perceptual and cognitive development, and social development. The use of dynamic systems ranges from the metaphorical to the rigorously mathematical, but in all cases the contributions present a step forward in developmental theory.Linda B. Smith and Esther Thelen are both Professors of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Indiana University.