This morning’s edition of BBC Radio 4’s brilliant In Our Time was dedicated to the infant brain and has a wide ranging discussion about how ideas about the early development of the child developed into the modern age of neuroscience.
The streamed version will be available on the website permanently, but if you want to download the podcast you only have a week to do so from this page.
For obvious reasons, what happens in the minds of very young, pre-verbal children is elusive. But over the last century, the psychology of early childhood has become a major subject of study.
Some scientists and researchers have argued that children develop skills only gradually, others that many of our mental attributes are innate.
Sigmund Freud concluded that infants didn’t differentiate themselves from their environment.
The pioneering Swiss child psychologist Jean Piaget thought babies’ perception of the world began as a ‘blooming, buzzing confusion’ of colour, light and sound, before they developed a more sophisticated worldview, first through the senses and later through symbol.
More recent scholars such as the leading American theoretical linguist Noam Chomsky have argued that the fundamentals of language are there from birth. Chomsky has famously argued that all humans have an innate, universally applicable grammar.
Over the last ten to twenty years, new research has shed fresh light on important aspects of the infant brain which have long been shrouded in mystery or mired in dispute, from the way we start to learn to speak to the earliest understanding that other people have their own minds.
Link to In Our Time ‘The Infant Brain’ (thanks Petra!)