An Argument for Mind Jerome Kagan

Publication date:
28 Oct 2007
Yale University Press
304 pages: 229mm
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In this elegantly written book, Jerome Kagan melds the history of the field of psychology during the past 50 years with the story of his own research efforts of the same period and an analysis of what he terms “the currently rocky romance between psychology and biology.” As Kagan unwinds his own history, he reveals the seminal events that have shaped his career and discusses how his assumptions have changed. With full appreciation for the contributions to psychology of history, philosophy, literature, and neuroscience, he approaches a wide range of fascinating topics, including:
·   the abandonment of orthodox forms of behaviorism and psychoanalysis
·   the forces that inspired later-twentieth-century curiosity about young children
·   why B. F. Skinner chose to study psychology
·   why the study of science less often ignites imaginations today
·   our society’s obsession with erotic love
·   the resurgence of religious fanaticism and the religious Right
Embedded in Kagan’s discussions is a rejection of the current notion that a mature neuroscience will eventually replace psychology. He argues that a complete understanding of brain is not synonymous with a full explanation of mind, and he concludes with a brief prediction of the next five decades in the field of psychology.

Jerome Kagan is professor of psychology emeritus, Harvard University, and was co-director of the Mind/Brain/Behavior Interfaculty Initiative at Harvard.

"This wonderful book weaves into a single strand the intellectual trajectory of a remarkable psychologist and the trajectory of his discipline over the same half century. Jerome Kagan did as much as anyone to shape the direction of psychology over that span of time, and the field, in turn, helped shape Jerome Kagan in ways he recounts with his usual combination of grace, incisiveness, and wisdom. His is a rare and special mind."?Kai Erikson, Yale University

"One of the great living psychologists today reflects back on a distinguished fifty year career probing many of psychology?s most central and thorny questions. Jerome Kagan is a scholar of unusual breadth who brings to bear his appreciation of history and context to our understanding of the unique properties of the human mind. Kagan?s penetrating analysis of mind and brain is a must read for contemporary students of both psychology and neuroscience who often fail to appreciate the constraints imposed by context on the inferences that can be drawn from experimental findings."?Richard Davidson, University of Wisconsin, Madison

"Jerome Kagan's book has more wisdom in it than any book I've read in the last few years, or maybe, more than any ever."?Robert J. Sternberg, Yale University, editor of Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid

"In his new memoir An Argument for Mind, [Kagan] contends that the language of neuroscience can never replace the vocabulary of psychology; that despite the important research on neurons, circuits, and hormones, we will always have to talk about morality, meaning, and love as psychological processes."?Boston Sunday Globe

?In this compelling academic memoir, Kagan draws on decades of his own and others? research in education and child development to challenge the assumption that early childhood experience determines adult disposition. . . . Written with masterly clarity and accessibility, Kagan?s history of a young science and of his own contributions to it will inspire and enrich all those interested in educational and child psychology.??Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Kagan has been at the forefront of what is called the cognitive revolution in psychology. . . . This is not an abstract or discursive 'argument for the mind.' It is an intellectual autobiography, rich with reflections on the author's 50-some-year involvement with a scientific discipline. What emerges is the portrait of a mind engaged with, but not captive to, a discipline's assumptions and methods?a mind that was enlivened, directed, but seldom constrained by the scientific effort to understand the mind itself."?Jay Tolson, American Scholar

"Kagan provides a summary of changes that have occurred in psychology over the past 50 years, shares some of his personal history and research contributions, and offers a critique of contemporary social science. He also manages to insert the occasional general commentary on the state of American society. The book should appeal to a wide audience. . . . Entertaining and enlightening reading, filled as it is with wisdom gathered over many years of scholarly activity."?Science

?Books like An Argument for Mind are welcome reminders of the value of the more mental and cognitive perspectives as we continue our attempts to understand human behavior. Accordingly, practitioners, researchers, professors, and students would benefit from reading about Kagan?s successful professional accomplishments in the context of historical reflections and predictions of future pursuits of the elusive mind.??Kelly G. Lambert, Journal of the American Medical Association

"This engaging autobiography is well worth reading. . . . Essential."?Choice

?Kagan has many wise and interesting things to say.??Edward Fesser, National Review

"This book possesses the compelling characteristics of [Kagan's] earlier works: extraordinary breadth, high scholarship, penetrating analysis, thoughtful commentary, and pleasing prose."?Philip Roman Zelazo, History of Behavioral Science