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Hardcover | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780262050524 | 450 pp. | 6 x 9 in | October 1996
Paperback | $38.00 X | £28.95 | ISBN: 9780262550307 | 450 pp. | 6 x 9 in | January 1998

Instructor Resources

Rethinking Innateness

A Connectionist Perspective on Development


Rethinking Innateness asks the question, "What does it really mean to say that a behavior is innate?" The authors describe a new framework in which interactions, occurring at all levels, give rise to emergent forms and behaviors. These outcomes often may be highly constrained and universal, yet are not themselves directly contained in the genes in any domain-specific way.

One of the key contributions of Rethinking Innateness is a taxonomy of ways in which a behavior can be innate. These include constraints at the level of representation, architecture, and timing; typically, behaviors arise through the interaction of constraints at several of these levels.The ideas are explored through dynamic models inspired by a new kind of "developmental connectionism," a marriage of connectionist models and developmental neurobiology, forming a new theoretical framework for the study of behavioral development. While relying heavily on the conceptual and computational tools provided by connectionism, Rethinking Innateness also identifies ways in which these tools need to be enriched by closer attention to biology.


Rethinking Innateness is a milestone as important as the appearance ten years ago of the PDP books. More integrated in its structure, more biological in its approach, this book provides a new theoretical framework for cognition that is based on dynamics, growth, and learning. Study this book if you are interested in how minds emerge from developing brains.”
Terrence J. Sejnowski, Professor, Salk Institute for Biological Studies