Emergent constructivism : theoretical and methodological considerations

Date
2022-07-29
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Source Title
Human Development
Print ISSN
0018-716X
Electronic ISSN
1423-0054
Publisher
S. Karger AG
Volume
66
Issue
4-5
Pages
276 - 294
Language
English
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Abstract

Nativist and empiricist approaches require foundationalism because they cannot account for the emergence of representation. Foundationalism is the assumption of an innate representational base. In turn, foundationalism places limits on the nature of learning as a constructivist process. In contrast, action-based approaches can account for the emergence of representation through (inter)action. In so doing, action-based approaches can pursue an emergent constructivism for learning and development. Despite the theoretical symmetry between nativism and empiricism with respect to foundationalism, there is an asymmetry in nativist and empiricist research programs. Nativism generally ignores constructivist complexity that non-nativist approaches assume needs to be investigated empirically. In practice, this means that the plethora of nativist looking-time studies do not provide adequate control conditions for the rich interpretations drawn from such research. Instead, it is the a priori assumptions of nativism doing the justification. Without such assumptions, the meaning of the data is unclear at best. Importantly, the problem of a priori assumptions driving rich interpretations is not specific to nativism or looking methodologies. Mindreading as a research program also engages in rich interpretations for studies that concern social-cognition from infancy through preschool. Similarly, these studies do not include the types of control conditions motivated by more constructivist thinking. To the extent that empiricist research programs incorporate constructivist thinking into research, they converge with action-based approaches. This creates a sort of methodological bridge between lean-empiricist research programs and action-based approaches. However, this bridge has limitations that we illustrate through an example concerning maternal mental-state discourse and theory of mind development. The ultimate conclusions are threefold: (a) Action-based approaches are the best theoretical framework for understanding learning and development; (b) constructivist methodology is multiply motivated; (c) there are varying degrees of methodological commensurability between empiricism and action-based approaches. © 2022 Human Development

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