Necessary Knowledge

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OUP Oxford, Apr 5, 2007 - Psychology - 360 pages
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'Necessary Knowledge' takes on one of the big questions at the heart of the cognitive sciences - what knowledge do we possess at birth, and what do we learn along the way?It is now widely accepted that evolution, individual development, and individual learning can no longer be studied in isolation from each-other - they are inextricably linked. Therefore any successful theory must integrate these elements, and somehow relate them to human culture. Clearly we learn from the world around us, but that learning is skewed towards specific things about the world. We do not just attend to and learn about every stimulus that confronts us - if we did, learning would beimpossibly time-consuming and ineffective. Learning is constrained - we are primed to learn about certain aspects of the world and ignore others. So what are these constraints, and where do they come from? The theory expounded in this book is that we enter the world with small amounts of innaterepresentational knowledge. It neither sides with those who believe in 'blank slate' theories, nor with those who believe all learning is innate. In fact, what is written on our 'slates' at birth is a certain type of knowledge about specific things in the world, the general configuration of the human face for instance, a knowledge that other people possess minds and motives.'Necessary Knowledge' presents an important new theory, in a book that makes an accessible and thought provoking contribution to one of the enduring issues about human nature.

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About the author (2007)


Born in South Africa, I graduated with a 1st class Honours degree in Zoology and Psychology in 1963. I came to the United Kingdom in 1964 and was employed as a scientist by the Medical Research Council from 1965 to 1972. I gained my PhD from the University of London in 1968 and was awarded a Medical Research Council Travelling Fellowship the following year, which took me to the United States during the period1970-1972 where I worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. I returned to the UK in 1972 and was appointed a lecturer in psychology at University College London at the start of the 1972-73 academic year. In 1988 the title of Reader was conferred on me, and in 1993 I was made Professor of Psychobiology. I was Head of the Department of Psychology at UCL during the period 1993-1998, and in 2005 became Emeritus Professor of Psychology.

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