Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development
Birkbeck College, University of London, UK
Office: Room 103
1. Introduction. Key concepts and theories of cognitive
2. Interactions with the physical world. Perception and
3. Conceptual development.
5. Reasoning and problem solving. Executive functions.
7. Summary. Looking at cognitive development from
Goswami U. (2008). Cognitive
Development: The Learning Brain. Oxford:
Chapters 1, 2, 4, 5 (only pages 146-171), 8
(only pages 252-289), 9, 11.
• Multiple-choice test (contributes to 90% of
final grade + 10% for attendance)
• Material required: Lecture contents (slides
will be provided online) + Goswami
textbook (set chapters only)
• Date TBA
• Two core questions: “what” develops and
• “What” - which cognitive skills and
processes develop and when?
• “Why” - how can the development of a
certain process or skill be explained and
Two accounts of cognitive
• Domain-general – “core modes of learning
and reasoning are applied across all
• Domain-specific (modular) – “development
of cognition is piecemeal - it occurs at
different time points in different domains”
Nature vs. Nurture
• What is the explanation for fantastic
development of cognitive skills in infants and
• Is it mostly rich genetic endowment or rich
experience of the environment, in which the
baby is immersed?
• Recent numerous examples of sophistication of
infant cognition revived quasi - nativist views.
Nativism (Innate vs. Acquired)
• Several cognitive processes (such as
detection of face-like patterns) were
proven to be active from birth
• This led many researchers (like Elizabeth
Spelke) to claim that many cognitive skills
are genetically determined and “prewired”
in the infant brain
Innate vs. Acquir