Childhood and the Lifelong Love of Science
- A Next Big Idea Club nominee
How we can all be lifelong wonderers: restoring the sense of joy in discovery we felt as children.
From an early age, children pepper adults with questions that ask why and how: Why do balloons float? How do plants grow from seeds? Why do birds have feathers? Young children have a powerful drive to learn about their world, wanting to know not just what something is but also how it got to be that way and how it works. Most adults, on the other hand, have little curiosity about whys and hows; we might unlock a door, for example, or boil an egg, with no idea of what happens to make such a thing possible. How can grown-ups recapture a child's sense of wonder at the world? In this book, Frank Keil describes the cognitive dispositions that set children on their paths of discovery and explains how we can all become lifelong wonderers.
Keil describes recent research on children's minds that reveals an extraordinary set of emerging abilities that underpin their joy of discovery—their need to learn not just the facts but the underlying causal patterns at the very heart of science. This glorious sense of wonder, however, is stifled, beginning in elementary school. Later, with little interest in causal mechanisms, and motivated by intellectual blind spots, as adults we become vulnerable to misinformation and manipulation—ready to believe things that aren't true. Of course, the polymaths among us have retained their sense of wonder, and Keil explains the habits of mind and ways of wondering that allow them—and can enable us—to experience the joy of asking why and how.
“Frank Keil is among the deepest thinkers about thought, and here he explores the wondrous urge that drives our lifelong quest to understand the world.”
Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; author of Rationality
“Frank Keil is one of the great psychologists of our time, and his beautiful, brilliant, and humane work tells the story of children's fascination with the natural world, how it is brutally stifled in school, and how we can recover it as adults. Filled with moving stories and striking scientific findings, this book is essential reading for anyone who cares about children, science, or nature—and just the thing for any reader who wishes to re-experience the childhood joy of asking why. Wonder is wonderful.”
Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology, University of Toronto; author of The Sweet Spot: The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning
“Wonder is an apt title for this wonderful, brilliant book. Written by one of the most creative and integrative minds in the cognitive sciences and rich with compelling examples, Wonder examines the human drive to explore, discover, and understand the world around us. When and why do we seek to understand how the world works, and what are the forces that foster or smother these impulses? For every parent who has patiently answered their child's relentless 'why' questions, for every educator who seeks to engage their students' curiosity about how the natural world works, for every person who wishes to know how the human species finds meaning, this book is a satisfying delight.”
Susan Gelman, Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan
“I think Frank Keil's book Wonder is riveting. It is refreshingly optimistic and quite fascinating. It is full of unique insights and exciting examples from the history of science. I found it engaging and charming.”
Cristine H. Legare, Professor of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin
“Frank Keil is a leading expert on children's cognitive development, and Wonder brings together various strands of his work into a comprehensive argument about the development and decline of scientific reasoning. Keil's work has revolutionized the study of conceptual development, and I foresee this book as having a similar impact. Keil's argument will be important for the field of developmental psychology, as well as society at large.”
Andrew Shtulman, Professor of Psychology, Occidental College; author of Scienceblind
“Wonder: Childhood and the Lifelong Love of Science discusses why it is that young children show the curiosity and thirst for explanation often displayed by working scientists, whereas older school children appear disengaged and discontented. Frank Keil has been a long-standing contributor to the field of cognitive development, and this synthesis of his ideas will be very welcome. A great addition to the MIT Press catalog.”
Paul L. Harris, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Education, Harvard University
“Wonder is simply wonderful. Summarizing recent scientific discoveries, many from his own lab, Frank Keil demolishes a deficit view of young learners and replaces it with a portrait of the child as a curious scientist, fully capable of asking and exploring an endless sequence of questions about how and why the world works. A must-read for any parent or educator who believes a young mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
Angela Duckworth, Founder and CEO of Character Lab, #1 New York Times best selling author of Grit.
“How to perpetuate wonder — and respect for science — in adulthood is the heart of [Keil's] appealing book.”
"This book has given me hope by proposing a future for my children that will remain wonder-full."
"A love letter to the importance of inquiry and, specifically, to the kind of inquiry that comes along with wonder […] Ultimately, I suspect that most readers will come away with both a sense of hopefulness and a commitment to inculcating wonder wherever and however they can."