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Paperback | $47.00 Short | £32.95 | ISBN: 9780262700597 | 408 pp. | 7 x 10 in | January 1996

"“University Presses in Space” showcases a special sampling of the many works that university presses have published about space and space exploration."

A Dynamic Systems Approach to the Development of Cognition and Action


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.

Cognitive Psychology series

About the Authors

Esther Thelen was Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Indiana University before her death in 2004.

Linda B. Smith is a Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Indiana University.


"A radical departure from most of current cognitive developmenttheory.... Nativists, structuralists, empiricists and socialconstructivists will disagree with different parts of this book.Yet this landmark volume is essential reading for all of them."
Annette Karmiloff-Smith and Mark H. Johnson, Nature