Cognitive Development


We will begin with a brief historical overview of the discipline. We will then place the work of Jean Piaget in its historical context and understand the goal Piaget had set for his work. [A brief biography of Piaget is at :]. The discussion will then focus, first on his early work and then on his theory of cognitive development. The course will move on to study the aim and content of the theoretical framework developed by Lev Vygotsky [See page 878 of the MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences available in the library for a note on Vygotsky’s work]. We will also discuss Vygotsky’s views on development of scientific thinking.

After Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s work on cognitive development, the plan is to have lectures on some contemporary perspectives in the cognitive development literature. In this, my focus will mainly be current ideas on concept representation, development and reasoning; information processing, theory-theory and related perspectives in cognitive development; and if time permits, a brief discussion of theory of mind and other literature in social cognition.

We will mainly follow the writings of Piaget, Vygotsky, John Flavell, and Michael Cole. I will let you know the reference details from time to time. To begin with, for the historical overview, I’m primarily using books by Jean Piaget (Main Trends in Psychology, George Allen, 1973), Michael Cole (Cultural Psychology, Harvard, 1996), and George Mandler (A History of Modern Psychology, MIT, 2007). The lectures will be on every Tuesdays and some of the Fridays (other Fridays being reserved for the presentations).

Those who are crediting the course will regularly be assigned readings. They are expected to present their understating of the reading to the class and submit a write up of no more than 1000 words on it (in their OWN words). These presentations will be on Fridays. I have already assigned you the first set of the readings. Assessment will primarily be based on the presentations and write-ups.

References for Cognitive Development Course


Piaget, J. (1971). Structuralism. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.


Gibsen, R. (1984). Structuralism and Education. Hodder and Stoughton, London.


Piaget, J. (1973).  Main Trends in Psychology. George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London.


Piaget, J. (2002). The Child's Conception of Physical Causality. Routledge.


Piaget, J. (1971). The Child's Conception of the World, Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., London.


Flavell, J.H. (1970). The Developmental Psychology of Jean Piaget, Van nostrand Reinhold Company.


Flavell, J. H., Miller, P. H., Miller, S.A. (2002). Cognitive Development. Prentice Hall, New Jersey. 

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978), Mind in Society, Harvard University Press, Cambridge. 

Schonick, E.F., Nelson, K., Gelman, S.A., & Miller, P.H. (eds.) (1999). Conceptual Development- Piaget's Legacy. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, London. 

Luria, A.R. (1976). The Problem In Cognitive Development: Its Cultural and Social Foundations. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.


Cole, M. (1996). Enduring Questions and Debates In Cultural Psychology: A Once and Future Discipline. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.