1st Edition

Affects, Cognition, and Language as Foundations of Human Development

By Paul C. Holinger Copyright 2025
    200 Pages 45 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    200 Pages 45 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Affects, Cognition, and Language as Foundations of Human Development considers human development from the three most basic systems—affects (our earliest feelings), cognition, and language. Holinger explores how these systems enhance potential and help prevent problems, both in individuals and in societies.

    He begins with a focus on the affects of interest and anger, and how affects provide the foundation for the sense of self and playing and creating. The author delves into cognition in the context of human relationships and infants’ remarkable capacity to understand language long before they can talk. Drawing on the work of Darwin, Freud, Stern, Basch, and the ground-breaking ideas of Silvan Tomkins, this work thus deepens the exploration into human development by integrating affects, cognition, and language. The author also uses this triad to examine two important societal issues: physical punishment; and bias, prejudice, and violence.

    This book will not only appeal to psychologists, psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, and social workers, but is also accessible to parents, educators, and policymakers.





    PART 1: Developing

    Chapter 1. Developing: Exploring Human Development via Affects, Cognition, and Language

    Chapter 2. The Evolving Concept of Affects

    Chapter 3. The Current Concepts of Affects: Functions and Examples

    Chapter 4. The Affect of Interest: The Core of Our Existence

    Chapter 5. Affects: The Foundation of Playing and Creating

    Chapter 6. Affects, Early Development, and the Sense of Self

    Chapter 7. Anger: The Misunderstood Affect

    Chapter 8. Emerging Cognition

    Chapter 9. Language: Before Children Begin to Talk

    Chapter 10. Affects into Words: When Children Begin to Talk

    Chapter 11. Integrating Affects, Cognition, and Language: The Impact of Early Verbalization of Affects, the Emergence of Empathy, and Clinical Implications


    PART 2: Societal Implications of Understanding Affects, Cognition and Language: Views on Overcoming Physical Punishment and Bias, Prejudice, and Violence

    Introduction to Two Social Issues: Physical Punishment, and Toward Understanding Bias, Prejudice, and Violence

    Chapter 12. Physical Punishment: The Canary in the Coal Mine

    Chapter 13. Toward Understanding Bias, Prejudice, and Violence

    Chapter 14. Wrapping Up and a Glance at the Future




    Paul C. Holinger, MD, MPH, is a Psychiatrist, Training and Supervising Analyst, and Child and Adolescent Supervising Analyst. Dr. Holinger is a Faculty Member and former Dean at the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute, and retired Professor of Psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois.

    "In Affects, Cognition, and Language as Foundations of Human Development, Paul Holinger has produced a tour de force. In an elegant, engaging volume he describes the intertwining of affects, cognition, and language in human development. In clear language he unpacks the impact of these complex interactions on individual treatment, parenting, and crucial social issues such as violence. This volume can serve as a cross-disciplinary foundational text for many mental health programs."

    Leon Hoffman, MD, Center for Regulation Focused Psychotherapy

    "In this book Paul Holinger effectively integrates knowledge about the ‘information systems‘ of affects, cognition, and language to create a new lens for looking at normal and pathological development through the life cycle. Clinicians, teachers, parents, and policymakers can fruitfully apply this illuminating perspective to address children’s needs in multiple contexts, ranging from child rearing to therapy to crucial social issues, as Holinger illustrates in his cogent discussion of physical violence and punishment. The reader comes away inspired with hope by Holinger’s clarity and commitment to the needs of children and all who care for them."

    Jack Novick, PhD, and Kerry Kelly Novick, Psychoanalysts and Authors of Working With Parents Makes Therapy Work and Freedom to Choose: Two Systems of Self-Regulation

    "Paul Holinger has written a must-read for parents, therapists, and legislators alike. If you’ve ever wondered why we do what we do or how to help someone or a society change, this is your go-to book. Using the concepts of affect, cognition, and language he synthesizes an enormous body of research through clear anecdotes and case vignettes. As if that wasn’t enough, he goes on to explain why, against all the evidence, we continue to use physical punishment as well as why we treat other types of people in such destructive, prejudicial ways."

    Daniel W. Prezant, President of the American Psychoanalytic Association

    "Paul Holinger, our experienced guide, takes us on a journey into the developing mind, tracing the trajectory from early affects to cognition and then language, each phase enriching the other. In jargon-free and often quite personal writing, we learn how affects are the foundation of being human and how they blossom under the caring spirit of the attuned caregiver. Holinger demonstrates how empathy is the medium that allows for the enlivening link between affects and words. Clear clinical examples animate these concepts along with demonstrations of attuned interventions. He shares with us in some detail a passion that he has devoted himself to throughout his career. That is, an understanding of the levels of damage that physical punishment inflicts on the growing mind and spirit. This is not to be missed. This and his understanding of the corrosive impact of malignant ‘othering’ make the book a worthy read. So does the sparkling ‘gleam in his eye’ that he describes in caretakers that we readers also can feel in his graceful writing."

    Harvey Schwartz, MD, Producer and Host, IPA Podcast, Psychoanalysis On and Off the Couch

    "Paul C. Holinger, MD, MPH, has written a canonical text in Affect, Cognition, and Language as Foundations for Human Development. He takes the reader on an exciting journey through the intricate interplay of these ‘messy’ information-processing systems. He shows how infants and children thrive where interest and curiosity have been encouraged. All this is done while tracing out the history of human development, including cutting-edge research and illuminating case studies. The author does not shy away from tackling the most pressing issues facing societies—prejudice, bias, racism, hatred, and violence. This is a gem of a book offering a roadmap as to what needs to be done for a healthy society. He not only leaves us with the challenge to take up the task to do better; he inspires us to do so as well. The book is a gift to humanity."

    Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin, PhD, Psychoanalyst; Counter Terrorist Expert; and Author of The Jihadi Dictionary: The Essential Intel Tool for Military, Law Enforcement, Government and the Concerned Public

    "A remarkable tour de force … With deep scientific knowledge and support, but written to be readily accessible to all, Dr. Holinger’s manuscript should be read by all, and especially by new parents. The insights about infants and children that are provided form an invaluable foundation for raising curious, empathic, emotionally healthy, and downright delightful children."

    Daniel L. Goldberg, Attorney, Boston, Massachusetts

    "Dr. Holinger’s fascinating and ground-breaking book explores the origins of our earliest feelings (affects), thinking, and language—thus paving the way for a better understanding of human nature and development. In addition to discussing individuals and clinical cases, he also sheds new light on two major societal problems: physical punishment; and bias, prejudice, and violence. This is an essential book for mental health professionals, educators, and parents, and it is a must-read in our troubled times."

    Pamela C. Cantor, PhD, Author of Understanding Children and Youth

    "In this remarkable book, Paul Holinger creatively continues the thinking on affects that Darwin introduced in 1872. Darwin’s work almost got lost in psychology until the work of Silvan Tomkins in the middle of the twentieth century. Since then, a number of scholars have extended the thinking about affects into the meaning of language, development, and of the self. Holinger intelligently integrates these diverse strands into a cohesive whole. He further suggests the relevance of his model for understanding topics as wide-ranging as cults, racist extremism, and cognitive functioning. I warmly recommend this book for its fresh approach to subjects often slighted in psychological, social, and historical scholarship."

    Charles B. Strozier, Professor of History at John Jay College; Psychoanalyst; and Author of Heinz Kohut: The Making of a Psychoanalyst, Lincoln’s Quest for Union, and The New World of the Self

    "Dr. Holinger provides a masterful integration of three core developmental domains, powerfully demonstrating the complexity and beauty of children’s experience of the world. This work is all the evidence we need to end the shame and humiliation of physical punishment, which offends the miraculous unfolding of the mind."

    Joan Durrant, Executive Director, Positive Discipline in Everyday Life; Professor (Senior Scholar), Department of Community Health Sciences, Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences; and Author of Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting

    "Affects, Cognition, and Language as Foundations of Human Development, Paul Holinger’s newest book, arrives just in time. Dr. Holinger builds on the three core foundations in Part 1 where together we explore two critical societal problems: the physical punishment of children, and the origins and persistence of bias, prejudice, and violence. For workplaces virtually paralyzed by hypersensitivities, extreme polarities, and threats of violence, Paul’s insights provide hope. Hope, that with understanding, we can pull on the right threads to undo these two self-made Gordian knots."

    David E. "Daven" Morrison III, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Chicago Medical School; Academy of Organizational and Occupational Psychiatry – Past President; Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (GAP); Committee on Work and Psychiatry; and Author of The A.B.C.’s of Behavioral Forensics

    "In times such as these, there seems nothing more important than to understand what makes human beings tick and to use that knowledge to live more deeply human and humane lives. If Silvan Tomkins, the grandfather of the modern-day study of emotion, was correct in following Darwin’s lead by declaring our affect system as the primary motivational system in human beings, then we surely need to better understand affect and emotion across human development. I believe that Tomkins was 100 percent correct, and I also believe that Paul Holinger’s new book is a superb elucidation of what we need to understand about affect, cognition, and language. This book will be illuminating and extremely helpful to parents and professionals alike."

    Lauren Abramson, PhD, Founding Director, Community Transformation (www.communitytransformation.net), and Restorative Justice Facilitator, Trainer, Writer, and Theorist

    "Paul Holinger’s book is, above all else, a message of hope. In exploring the origins and factors of healthy human development and explaining them in certain, clear-eyed terms, Dr. Holinger operates on the belief that when we know better, we will do better. He clarifies the murky early years of parenting, and reframes moments that can feel frustrating into observations of what is, truly, quite fascinating about tiny, growing humans. Our children and our society are counting on us to heed Dr. Holinger’s call and lean into our full humanity, so that every child gets a chance to reach their full, innate potential."

    Heidi Stevens, Nationally Syndicated Columnist

    "Paul C. Holinger offers the professional community and the general public a brilliant integration of humanitarian and scientific approaches to child development. His presentation of the interplay of affects, cognition, and language as foundational elements of human development reflects his extensive experience and deep respect for the uniqueness of each individual. The impact of societal problems— physical punishment, bias, prejudice, and violence— on child development is presented in terms that constitute a call to action for parents, educators, and mental health professionals; for anyone committed to protecting children’s developmental potential."

    Harriet Wolfe, MD, President, International Psychoanalytical Association

    "This provocative book describes a bold thesis that links infants’ subcortical reactions to several contemporary social problems. Key foundational scholars are identified that led Holinger to home in on the developmental processes integrating affect, cognition, and language in thought-provoking juxtapositions. Vignettes nicely illustrate Holinger’s points and clinical implications are provided to make this book appealing to a wide range of readers, including parents, educators, therapists, and scientists."

    George W. Holden, Emeritus Professor, SMU President of the US Alliance to End the Hitting of Children

    "Paul Holinger conveys the wisdom of a lifetime as he synthesizes the latest research in child development and brings this to life with clinical examples, personal anecdotes, and quotes from thinkers from Aristotle to Martin Luther King. While the book’s title might seem daunting, it will prove enlightening and an enjoyable read for parents, clinicians, educators, policy makers, and pretty much anyone curious about how affect, cognition, and language apply to parenting, psychotherapy, and social policy."

    Arthur Nielsen, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University; Faculty, The Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute; and Author of A Roadmap for Couple Therapy and Integrative Couple Therapy in Action