Sie sind auf Seite 1von 4

Infant and Child Development

Inf. Child. Dev. 20: 246248 (2011)

Book Review
THE CHILDS CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD: A 20TH-CENTURY CLASSIC OF CHILD PSYCHOLOGY, Second Edition. Edited by Jean Piaget, Forward by Jacques Voneche. Rowman & Littleeld Publishers, Inc, Lanham, MD, 2007. pp. 432. Price: 19.99, h31.48. ISBN 9780742559516 Reading this edition in light of the preface by Jacques Voneche, the Director of Piaget Archives, enables students of Piaget to gain important new insights into his early work as well as the man himself. The eloquent preface informs us of the intellectual climate of the 1920s when Piaget crafted his early work, describes the clinical method and its evolution, and provides a concise summary of the enormous amount of work reported in the book about childrens egocentrism expressed in terms of their realism, animism, and articialism. According to Voneche, the intellectual climate of the 1920s was dominated by Gestalt Psychology, Behaviorism, and testing when Piaget began his work. Disturbed by the view that human functioning is one and the same as that of the environment in which it takes place (Gestalt) or that it is solely the result of environmental inuences (Behaviorism), Piaget sought to describe it as emerging from the individuals effort to adapt to the environment. This desire found its rst form of expression in Piagets reaction to the task of standardizing the antecedent of the test that we know today as the Stanford-Binet. Piaget recognized that the consideration of childrens responses to test items only as right or wrong without a focus on how they reach their answers does not inform us about how children construct knowledge and adapt their thinking. Hence, Piaget set out to explore the structure and content of thinking. This book on the content of thought during
Copyright r 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

childhood emerged as part of this early effort. In rereading this volume in light of Voneches preface, we recognized that developmental psychologists had previously taken Piagets methods for granted, and devoted their attention to Piagets ideas about childrens thinking. A careful inquiry into Piagets methods led us to greater appreciation of Piagets arguments on both methodological and theoretical grounds. Regarding the former, in the rst substantive chapter on the description of his clinical method, Piaget states the limitations of testing and direct observation arguing that testing does not allow the researcher to have access to spontaneous interests of the children in context and that direct observation can reveal misleading information since it does not allow differentiation of play from childrens beliefs. In contrast, his clinical method allows the researcher to nd out childrens current functioning through open-ended questions. Regarding the latter, rereading Piaget on the clinical method revealed his emphasis on the role of communication and language in childrens development, for Piaget stated that guiding children through open-ended questions enables children to come to consciously recognize their thoughts that they were previously not aware of having. As noted by Becker (Becker, 2004; Becker & Varelas, 2001), these ideas of Piaget expressed in his early work indicate potential similarities between his and Vygotskys theories that deserve exploration in future work. Voneches commentary portrays Piaget as a researcher who strikes out on his own collecting and interpreting qualitative data. His work demonstrates that capturing childrens meanings requires delving into their world and learning to live with them while you maintain your

Book Review

247

own separate identity without loosing sight of your goal. Moreover, Piagets contributions go beyond introducing his clinical method to include childhood memories of his collaborators as well as data and ideas from other thinkers such as Freud, Hall, James, and Stern. Seen from our current cultural perspectives, then, this method of triangulation qualies the Piaget of the 1920s as an ethnographer of thinking that was not perhaps initially noticed. As such, Piagets methods emerge as a resource to be used in graduate level courses on qualitative methodology. We agree with Voneche that this book offers an accessible, warm, and lyrical account of childrens thinking. In his investigation of realism, animism, and articialism, Piaget talked to children about curious phenomena such as dreams, magic, words, the sun and the moon, thunder and lightening, and mountains. As people who are interested in young childrens language, communication, play, and education, we nd comfort in the themes and descriptions of childrens thinking as such. Given the current trends in testing and neuroscience which put the content of childrens thought on the back burner, rereading Piaget is a welcome breath of fresh air. Piagets central tenet in this volume is to illustrate that childrens realism, animism, and articialism are the results of childrens attribution of their thoughts, desires, and imaginations to the external world. The failure to draw a boundary between the self and the external world results in a fusion of the two. As such, realism emerges as childrens inability to distinguish internal from external and the sign from the signied. This is evident in his interviews with children on psychological phenomena such as thought, words, and dreams. According to Piaget, realism is transformed through stages moving from identifying the psychological and physical phenomena as one to understanding them as separate.
Copyright r 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Animism is dened as attributing living qualities such as intentions and personality to inanimate objects. As with realism, in his discussion of animism, Piaget addresses childrens attribution of consciousness to things and the notion of life in stages. Children move from initially attributing animism and consciousness to everything to thinking that only animals are conscious. Finally, Piaget addresses articialism, which he denes as childrens explanations of the origins of things such as the sun, moon, meteorology, and mountains. This development follows a pattern whereby the initial thoughts of children that everything is made by and for humans is replaced with attributions of natural origin. For example, rst, children think of clouds as made by human beings, then think of clouds existing in some relation to humans such as clouds being made of smoke coming out of peoples chimneys, and nally, thinking that clouds as condensed air. Piagets proposals about childrens egocentrism and its different manifestations and transformations continue to be relevant to our understanding of children today. A quick glance at the recent literature reveals that researchers continue to seek evidence in support of his ideas as he had called for as well as reanalyzing his own original data to offer alternative explanations of the work reported in his book (Pramling, 2006).

REFERENCES
Becker, J. (2004). Reconsidering the role of overcoming perturbations in cognitive development: Constructivism and consciousness. Human Development 47, 7793. Becker, J., & Varelas, M. (2001). Piagets early theory of the role of language in intellectual development: A comment on DeVriess account of Piagets social theory. Educational Researcher 30(6), 2223.
Inf. Child. Dev. 20: 246248 (2010) DOI: 10.1002/icd

248

Book Review

Pramling, N. (2006). The clouds are alive because they y in the air as if they were birds: A re-analysis of what children say and mean in clinical interviews in the work of Jean Piaget. European Journal of Psychology of Education XXI(4), 453466.

Artin Goncu and Barbara Abel University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
DOI: 10.1002/icd.719

Copyright r 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Inf. Child. Dev. 20: 246248 (2010) DOI: 10.1002/icd

Copyright of Infant & Child Development is the property of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.