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The Human Spark: The Science of Human Development

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  51 ratings  ·  8 reviews
As infants we are rife with potential. For a short time, we have before us a seemingly infinite number of developmental paths. Soon, however, we become limited to certain paths as we grow into unique products of our genetics and experience. But what factors account for the variation—in skills, personalities, values—that results? How do experiences shape what we bring into ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Basic Books
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3.82  · 
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 ·  51 ratings  ·  8 reviews


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Peter Mcloughlin
This book is an antidote to the conventional wisdom on brain science and human development. Most books arguing for a more environmental approach to the human mind and development that I've seen do not make as down to earth and a clear cut case that our culture matters in outcomes in development towards adulthood. Their is a lot of talk in the current literature on the effects of genes on temperament and personality. The author does not dispute these genetic factors as existing in people and yes ...more
John Martindale
One thing I appreciated was Kagan acknowledges the power of our ideas and belief on our behavior. The fact that ones worldview has sway on how they live, is something so incredibly obvious, but from most science/pyschological books I've come across, one wouldn't think so. Many today act as if it is all a neat little mix of genes and environment that accounts for who we are. But yeah, the author does an excellent job showing how complex everything is, bringing things to light that so many other a ...more
Sps
Dec 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 100s
An elder statesman of psychology here gathers his thoughts on not just human development, but studies of human development and indeed the field of psychology itself. He makes a strong case for temperament predicting personality first and foremost, with overall context (especially family socioeconomic status) coming in second.

Particular parenting practices, like the emphasis on a 'secure attachment,' seem to him to have little evidence behind them, and instead are simply a product of their era.
...more
Silas
Mar 18, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was not what I expected at all. I thought it would be a study about how babies' brains developed, but that was simply a skeleton on which the author hung various criticisms of the social sciences of the day. While at first, it was refreshing to hear someone expressing some of the doubts I have had before, it quickly became pretty repetitive. About halfway through, the author started to focus on morality, and the potentially subjective nature of it. I could tell there that we did not ag ...more
Troy Blackford
Mar 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
An intriguingly contrarian work of (mostly social) psychology. Whether you agree with his views or not (I found myself agreeing with--or at least considering--a number of them and merely taking note of others), having such a strong and reasoned voice of skepticism examining fundamental tenants of psychology should be welcome in a science. And there were many great points here that were not contrarian. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Karen
Mar 15, 2014 rated it did not like it
I only got to page 76 because I stopped when I got this passage:

"If a child's semantic networks and schemata for nature are linked to the network for female, we might speculate that an intense curiosity about the natural world reflects, in part, a deep curiosity about women who, in the average child's mind, are more mysterious than men. Mothers and wives are far more affectionate, trusting, and self-sacrificing than fathers and men, and they hide their mysterious sexuality behind a mound of hair
...more
Ashley Wisdom
Nov 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a book that I had to read a few pages and then digest, as with many works of academic literature. Some themes were familiar, as Kagan drew upon the founding theorists of child/human development, including his own work. He did an excellent job of providing valid points as to why some theories are now outdated. What was especially interesting was his discussion of unquantifiable data (i.e. emotions) and the issue with most qualitative research in the field being conducted primarily through ...more
Mills College Library
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Jerome Kagan is an American psychologist. He was born in 1929 in Newark, New Jersey, and grew up in Rahway, New Jersey. Kagan is currently retired after being a professor at Harvard University in the Developmental program. He is one of the key pioneers of developmental psychology. He is Daniel and Amy Starch Research Professor of Psychology, Emeritus at Harvard University, and co-faculty at the Ne ...more