Three Seductive Ideas
Harvard University Press, Apr 7, 2000 - Psychology - 232 pages
Do the first two years of life really determine a child’s future development? Are human beings, like other primates, only motivated by pleasure? And do people actually have stable traits, like intelligence, fear, anxiety, and temperament? This book, the product of a lifetime of research by one of the founders of developmental psychology, takes on the powerful assumptions behind these questions—and proves them mistaken. Ranging with impressive ease from cultural history to philosophy to psychological research literature, Jerome Kagan weaves an argument that will rock the social sciences and the foundations of public policy. Scientists, as well as lay people, tend to think of abstract processes—like intelligence or fear—as measurable entities, of which someone might have more or less. This approach, in Kagan’s analysis, shows a blindness to the power of context and to the great variability within any individual subject to different emotions and circumstances. “Infant determinism” is another widespread and dearly held conviction that Kagan contests. This theory—with its claim that early relationships determine lifelong patterns—underestimates human resiliency and adaptiveness, both emotional and cognitive (and, of course, fails to account for the happy products of miserable childhoods and vice versa). The last of Kagan’s targets is the vastly overrated pleasure principle, which, he argues, can hardly make sense of unselfish behavior impelled by the desire for virtue and self-respect—the wish to do the right thing. Written in a lively style that uses fables and fairy tales, history and science to make philosophical points, this book challenges some of our most cherished notions about human nature.
What people are saying - Write a review
We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.
Chapter 1 A Passion for Abstraction
Chapter 2 The Allure of Infant Determinism
Chapter 3 The Pleasure Principle
Other editions - View all
Common terms and phrases
ability actions activity adolescent adults affect American animals anxiety appear asked assume attachment avoid awareness become behavior believe biological brain called cause century child cognitive concept consciousness consequences continually created critical describe determinism distinct early emotional ethical example experience fact fear feeling follow function future genes guilt human idea important individual infant influence intelligence interpreted language later learning less light living majority meaning memory mind moral mother motive natural object observed occur origin parents particular past person poor possess possible present probably processes produce psychological psychologists rats reaction reason relation require response result sciences scientists scores sensory similar social society species standards structures suggested talents term tests thought tion understand unfamiliar values young