Knowing Children: Experiments in Conversation and Cognition (Hardback) book cover

Knowing Children

Experiments in Conversation and Cognition

By Michael Siegal

© 1997 – Psychology Press

208 pages

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Paperback: 9781138877252
pub: 2015-06-25
Hardback: 9780863777677
pub: 1997-05-09
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780203776063
pub: 2013-05-13
from $54.95

FREE Standard Shipping!
e–Inspection Copy


It has often been maintained that young children's knowledge is limited to perceptual appearances. In this "preoperational" stage of development, there are profound conceptual limitations in that they have little understanding of numerical and causal relations and are incapable of insight into the minds of others. Their apparent inability to perform well on traditional developmental measures has led researchers to accept a model of the young child as plagued by conceptual deficits. These ideas have had a major impact on educational programs. Many have accepted the view that the young are not ready for instruction and that their memory and understanding is vulnerable to distortion, especially in subjects such as mathematics and science. However, the second edition of this book provides further evidence that children's stage-like performance can frequently be reinterpreted in terms of a clash between the conversational worlds of adults and children. In many settings, children may not share an adult's well-meaning purpose or use of words in questioning. Under these conditions, they do not disclose the depth of their memory and understanding and may respond incorrectly even when they are certain of the right answer.

In this light, a different model of development emerges with significant implications for instruction in educational, health, and legal settings. It attributes more competence to young children than is frequently recognized and reflects the position that development in evolutionarily important domains is guided by implicit constraints on learning. It proposes that attention to young children's conversational experience is a powerful means to illustrate what they know.


Michael Siegal's Knowing Children, 2nd Edition is a refreshing text bringing to light the effects of assumptions of language on developmental psychological experimentation. I found the text was clearly written with well edited background information. I enjoyed the way Siegal took time to cover many areas of developmental psychology demonstrating his theory of language as a variable within each area. - Julia Gwynne (University of Lancaster)

Table of Contents

What Children Know Before Talking. Communication with Children on Number and Measurement Problems. Detecting Causality. Representing Objects and Viewpoints. Memory and Suggestibility. Understanding Persons. Authority and Academic Skills. Models of Knowledge.

About the Series

Essays in Developmental Psychology

Essays in Developmental Psychology is designed to meet the need for rapid publication of brief volumes in developmental psychology.

The series defines developmental psychology in its broadest terms and covers such topics as social development, cognitive development, developmental neuropsychology and neuroscience, language development, learning difficulties, developmental psychopathology and applied issues.

Each volume in the series makes a conceptual contribution to the topic by reviewing and synthesizing the existing research literature, by advancing theory in the area, or by some combination of these missions.

Authors in this series provide an overview of their own highly successful research program, but they also include an assessment of current knowledge and identification of possible future trends in research.

Each book is a self-contained unit supplying the advanced reader with a coherent review of important research as well as its context, theoretical grounding and implications.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Developmental / General