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The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind
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The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,177 ratings  ·  135 reviews
This exciting book by three pioneers in the new field of cognitive science discusses important discoveries about how much babies and young children know and learn, and how much parents naturally teach them. It argues that evolution designed us both to teach and learn, and that the drive to learn is our most important instinct. It also reveals as fascinating insights about ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published December 26th 2000 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published August 18th 1999)
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Tomas Ramanauskas
Oct 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kids
When a book has 40 pages of references, you know the authors might've done their homework.

"How Babies Think" turns out to be a bit of mixed apples. You get some insightful findings, and then you understand that Alison Gopnik & the gang needed a book so badly they overstreched it by half.

The book makes an initial promise not to help you become a better parent but to shed some light on how babies see, hear, learn language and ultimately think. And does just that.

Some of the highlights:

Nov 19, 2007 rated it liked it
This was an interesting book. The authors review some interesting research on how infants learn in the first years of life. If it weren't for Chapter 5, I would have rated it higher. You can skip this chapter if you read the book. All this chapter does is repeat the same studies over and over (and over) again and make this really weird drawn out comparison of babies to computers and scientists that doesn't even make sense half the time.
Tracy Lowe
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: early-years
This book is an excellent introduction to understanding child development. The authors take the time to remind readers that although babies are individuals. Babies have perceptions about the world—they are constantly absorbing information and analyzing and interpreting it to draw their own conclusions. The authors take the time to clearly explain the thought process and how they acquire knowledge. Plenty of case studies and anecdotal evidence make the science of infant brain development ...more
Jun 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
My overall impression of this book is a favorable one. The information was relevant, easily digested, and had snippets of humor interjected here and there. The resources used to compile this book were extensive and credible. The notes on the material were comprehensive.

The first chapter dealt mainly with the history of the study of children, dating back to early philosophers like Plato, Socrates, and Meno. The chapter made me quite nostalgic for my philosophy classes. I think I'm much better
Ben Houge
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is so awesome! Everyone with a baby should read it, the sooner the better.

First amazing thing is the science. The book discusses three main problems that kids have to figure out: the Other Minds problem (that there are other, autonomous people in the world to interact with), the External World problem (how sensory information gets translated into a coherent representation of our physical environment), and the Language problem (how language is acquired). There are three main tools put
Oct 21, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Nobody who actually has kids
Shelves: parenting, 2007
I was sorely disappointed by this book. I had heard a lot of people raving about; but when I think about it, I don't remember if the raves came from child-free people or from parents. I thought this would be an important book for me, as a parent, to read. My impression of it, however, was that it was written by college professors who wanted a light, fun, superficial, yet scientific, quick read, pseudo-textbook to use with their undergrads. The examples of children and children's behavior were ...more
Jan 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really liked this explanation of how babies learn and the scientific experiments that people do to them to determine this. It covers how we learn language and that the other person is different from you and one other topic that I've forgotten. The majority of the book was fascinating and made babies so much more understandable. (There's a reason they mimic your gestures. There's a reason they can make all kinds of sounds.) The last chapter was a long-winded conclusion which just restated all ...more
Stuart Macalpine
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting book about the way children's understanding of the world develops in the first few years and indeed months of life. Some fascinating insights, for example that very young babies identify objects primarily by their trajectory and even if they change shape or form behind a screen and a tractor comes out as a rabbit, they will continue to assume it is the same object that is travelling at the same speed and on the same trajectory as when it went in, and the fact that this changes as ...more
Nov 15, 2013 rated it liked it
The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind has a great premise – that babies are a lot smarter and much more cognitively capable than previously thought. The three co-authors of this book explore and develop this main premise by first introducing the historical assumptions about babies and then contrasting that with research within the field of developmental psychology for infants, which started around the 1970s. The research, as they report, consistently paints a ...more
Christine Kenney
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
Picked this up at the suggestion it could allay future parental fears that we were not providing an enriching, hyper-structured experience for our infant. There were about 10 pages devoted to this topic in the final chapter (chasing an alarming chapter about developmental learning windows and neural connections atrophying if not sufficiently stimulated).

It could have been the version I was reading, but the remainder of the book read like it was written by a 3 author committee that couldn't
May 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: parenting
This book is nearly 15 years old, and it felt that way to me; having read other books on infant development lately, I found it a less informative repeat of other information I've read elsewhere. I did enjoy some of the studies referenced, like how infants interpret movement and common first words. Sometimes the authors seemed to be too self-referential, and entertaining themselves with their own anecdotes or theories (like the exhausting "scientist as child" chapter). While it was a reasonable ...more
Mar 19, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
Minds, brains and how children learn. More about stages and steps babies take to learn. Not too much instruction or advice beyond, let them play. They will stimulate themselves plenty and all babies eventually hit certain stages, minor variations happen depending on how we stimulate them.
Akhil Jain
Aug 24, 2018 rated it liked it
My fav quotes (not a review):
• "Babies who are figuring out what people think play imitation games; babies who are figuring out how we see objects play hide-and-seek; babies who are figuring out the sounds of language babble."
• "We call it the theory theory. (The theory is that children have theories of the world.)"
• "The theories translate the input—the evidence scientists gather—in-to a more abstract representation of reality. Just"
• "Just as children ignore or reinterpret the facts that don’t
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fairly interesting read. Really should help understanding the why behind certain actions and mannerisms Jensen exhibits throughout the first 3-4 years of life. Lots of it is skimmable but the dozen or so things to remember are worth the read.

Last chapter has a lot of cool points about the development of the neural network in all humans. The young mind is able to grasp and sponge so much more than even the teen and especially the adult.

Instagrammed the major points. A good summary of them from
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
It is often very hard for me to read a book on a subject which I am currently studying or otherwise working in as a fun read or as a side book for entertainment. It's difficult to enjoy a topic or find new things to seek out independently regarding the field in which one works when it is a part of one's everyday life and strife (but don't get me wrong...I love what I do). However, this book was an exception to this rule. Given to me as a suggested read by a fellow colleague, I found that this ...more
Jonathan Birnbaum
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
Came across this suggestion in a Tim Ferris podcast and as a new father was interested in expanding my baby knowledge. Learned that babies brains are capable of learning super quickly, and that our knowledge of baby learning is fairly nascent, with the field only beginning to take off in the '70s. The studies on language adoption stood out, where children <1 are able to pick up phonemes across languages easily, and there is a decline after. A few other random studies were interesting, like ...more
Hyokun Yun
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book provides a very gentle and casual introduction to developmental psychology. As I was completely ignorant of the field, it was very interesting for me to learn how developmental psychologists set up experiments for babies, and what they have found about early learning. Authors' main thesis that babies iteratively update their understanding of the world through observations and interactions with people, and that such a learning process is very similar to the research process of ...more
Sandeep Gautam
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
Babies and infants are fascinating and this book will open up new vistas of fascination with what kinds of brains and minds babies have.

Loosely organized as solving the problem of other minds, of physical objects and of understanding language, this book is tour-d-force of latest in infant and child developmental psychology- the only regret I have is that it stops at 3 year olds and doesn't provide any insights beyond that age.

The authors use humor quite appropriately throughout the book and it
Zach Irvin
Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Zach by: Dr. Clune
I thought this was a very good, semi-technical book about the brain development of infants and toddlers. Given that it was written in 1999, the information is, I'm sure, a little dated, but in general it seemed like an accurate account of how children learn, at least according to my limited experience with children. Most of the book demonstrates the fact that nature and nurture are both important factors in early development, it's not just one or the other. In the last chapter the authors touch ...more
Dec 31, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book gives quite good overview how babies brain works - what, when and how they learn, so the parents could have better idea what is going on these little heads. This is definitely not a guidebook how to maximize the babies brainpower.

Some good bits to remember:

- for the first months babies eyes could focus only ~30cm, anything else that is further gets blurry.

- 1 year olds trust parents blindly, they read from their faces and voices how they should react.

- 2 year olds start to learn that
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2018
The book tells you how 0-3-year olds operate like scientists to learn about the world. It tells you how they gradually come to learn that other people have minds similar but also independent from their own, the physics of the world, and the nuances of language. The authors argue that adults are as mature as we are today because we retain the scientific inquiry capabilities that we had possessed since infancy. I loved the first four chapters of the book, but found the latter three chapters to be ...more
Emily Monroe
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a high level overview of research methods and results in the field of developmental psychology. It covers language acquisition, how we can know that it is that babies know, and other similar topics. The authors mention several of the “heavy hitters” of child development, but since I’ve read Pieget and Vygotsky already I didn’t get much out of this beyond the “oh cool” reaction to the authors’ research methods.
Robert Rosenberg
Excellent book about child development with honest advice about how to be the best parent to your individual child in an informal and engaging style. Excellent science writing.

As above. Worth reading, if you are interested
In what kids are thinking! I’m interested in reading Gopnik’s other books.
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Terrific read - I was fascinated by the insight into what babies already know and what they tune into before we start actively "teaching" them, as well as the research developments designed to draw this information from a non-verbal communicator who is less than two years old.
Tawfiq Ahmad Al-Mekhlafy
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful torch for an exciting journey in thicket of 'scientist in the crib.'

I wanted a start to guide my steps toward a learning science. The book was just the right choice for such a start. With its rich enlightening, I could feel landmarks for where and how to commence and pursue my trek.
Allysia K
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great book for the non-scientific layperson like myself - easy to read without being condescending. The authors are often quite funny and it's fascinating to learn how much babies understand even from a very young age.
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is actually awesome.
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
Mostly obvious (to parents) stuff, packaged in too big a book.
Ro Pannesi
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
There's good info in this book, but nothing that anyone who has spent time in the presence of infants does not already know.
Moira Burke
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Full of party tricks to play with young babies. The first four chapters are more interesting than the second half.
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Alison Gopnik is a professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley. She received her BA from McGill University and her PhD. from Oxford University. Her honors include a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada University Research Fellowship, an Osher Visiting Scientist Fellowship at the Exploratorium, a Center for the ...more
“It’s not that children are little scientists but that scientists are big children.” 2 likes
“Knowledge guides emotion more than emotion distorts knowledge.” 2 likes
More quotes…