Beyond Modularity

From Learning, Development, and Conceptual Change

Beyond Modularity

A Developmental Perspective on Cognitive Science

By Annette Karmiloff-Smith

A Bradford Book





Taking a stand midway between Piaget's constructivism and Fodor's nativism, Annette Karmiloff-Smith offers an exciting new theory of developmental change that embraces both approaches. She shows how each can enrich the other and how both are necessary to a fundamental theory of human cognition.

Karmiloff-Smith shifts the focus from what cognitive science can offer the study of development to what a developmental perspective can offer cognitive science. In Beyond Modularity she treats cognitive development as a serious theoretical tool, presenting a coherent portrait of the flexibility and creativity of the human mind as it develops from infancy to middle childhood.

Language, physics, mathematics, commonsense psychology, drawing, and writing are explored in terms of the relationship between the innate capacities of the human mind and subsequent representational change which allows for such flexibility and creativity. Karmiloff-Smith also takes up the issue of the extent to which development involves domain-specific versus domain-general processes. She concludes with discussions of nativism and domain specificity in relation to Piagetian theory and connectionism, and shows how a developmental perspective can pinpoint what is missing from connectionist models of the mind.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262111690 256 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 34


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262611145 256 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 34


  • ...deserves wide readership by both developmentalists and nondevelopmentalists who need an overview of the state of the art. Clearly and comprehensively, Karmiloff-Smith shows the highly structured ways in which different representational processes emerge from infancy onwards.

    Andrew Whiten



  • This book has an important central thesis and Karmiloff-Smith argues impressively well in support of it. She focuses on one of the truly distinctive features of human cognitive development and makes a powerful case for her claim that cognitive science needs a developmental dimension.

    Margaret Donaldson

    Emeritus Professor of Developmental Psychology, University of Edinburgh

  • In this engagingly synoptic volume, the author calls on a long and distinguished career to model the development of the child's representational system, and to show that the changes it undergoes are not triggered by failure but by endogenous factors. A coherent picture of the development of the human representational system emerges from an insightful set of experiments.

    David Premack

    Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania