From Publishers Weekly
Noam Chomsky is the best-known advocate of the view that language skills are hardwired into our brains, and Steven Pinker made this argument in The Blank Slate
. Authors Greenspan, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics, and Shanker, an authority in child- and ape-language studies, completely reject this theory, claiming instead that our ability to reason is founded not on genetics but on emotional responses by infants to their environment, with emotional interactions forming the missing link in the development of symbols and language. In line with other recent research that ties cultural practices to areas of human development long held to be biologically determined, they maintain that symbolic thinking has been molded by cultural practices dating back to prehuman species. The authors trace the development of language skills and personality from birth to old age with a 16-stage hierarchy of what they call "functional emotional development capabilities" ranging from "Regulation and Interest in the Word" to "Wisdom of the Ages." In the last part of the book, they use these stages to examine major intellectual turning points and figures in history, such as the Greek philosophers, Descartes and Freud. This book should appeal most to readers working in psychology and child development, but its revolutionary ideas no doubt will lead to lively and well-publicized debates.
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When and how did humans acquire the faculty of symbolic thinking? In this study of the origin of human intelligence, the nature-versus-nurture conundrum is no closer to resolution. However, the nurture side of the debate does get a boost here. Greenspan and Shanker, a child psychiatrist and a philosopher, respectively, explicate their 16-level "functional/emotional" framework to support the evidence about human intelligence that they have gathered from the fields of child development, animal (especially chimpanzee) communication, paleoanthropology, sociology, and the history of philosophy. Apart from building their construct, Greenspan and Shanker challenge the nature champions, such as neuroscientists Joseph LeDoux (The Emotional Brain
, 1996) and Steven Pinker (The Blank Slate
, 2002). Public-library interest is apt to be spotty yet definite for this rather formidable read (main ideas are expressed in polysyllabic phrases such as "co-regulated reciprocal emotional interactions"), especially with research-oriented readers willing to discern, as the authors do, millions of years of social (rather than genetic) evolution in a toddler's amazing mental growth. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved