In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Developmental Psychology (Cognitive)

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Theories of Cognitive Development
  • Research Methods
  • Attention
  • Memory
  • Learning
  • Executive Function
  • Reasoning, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Categorization
  • Causal Reasoning
  • Number Concepts
  • Visual Perception
  • Speech Perception
  • Intersensory Perception
  • Early Language Development
  • Word Learning
  • Bilingual and Multilingual Word Learning
  • Bilingualism and Cognition
  • Language and Cognition
  • Social Cognition

Psychology Developmental Psychology (Cognitive)
Catherine M. Sandhofer, Natsuki Atagi, Christina Schonberg, Lauren Krogh Slone
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0180


Cognition refers to a broad range of processes that can generally be understood as processes involved in thinking or acquiring knowledge. Cognition can refer to higher-level acts of thinking, such as problem solving, reasoning, or decision making, but cognition also refers to more basic components of thinking, including memory, perception, and attention. Cognitive development is concerned with how cognition changes over time. Large gains are made in cognitive development during the first few years of life, but cognitive development continues across the lifespan. Studying developmental changes in cognition is complicated by the fact that children are largely preverbal during times of rapid change. Thus, specialized methods are needed to examine changes in children’s cognitive abilities in their early years.

General Overviews

The works included in this section provide broad and comprehensive discussions of research and theories in the field of cognitive development. Bjorklund 2012 and Siegler and Alibali 2004 are textbooks suitable for advanced undergraduates or beginning graduate students and provide a broad survey of topics and research in this area. This section also includes two handbooks: Goswami 2011 and Damon, et al. 2006, which provide comprehensive discussion of current and classic research in cognitive development. Keen 2003 asks theoretical questions about how the methods used in research with children may lead to specific conclusions about the nature of children’s abilities. Oakes 2009 reviews how to think about cognitive development as a whole system.

  • Bjorklund, David F. 2012. Children’s thinking: Cognitive development and individual differences. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

    This textbook provides comprehensive and current coverage of topics and research in cognitive development. The chapters are arranged both chronologically and topically.

  • Damon, William, Richard M. Lerner, Deanna Kuhn, and Robert S. Siegler, eds. 2006. Handbook of child psychology. Vol. 2, Cognition, perception, and language. 6th ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.

    This authoritative series covers current and classic research in developmental psychology. Volume 2 of this series contains twenty-two chapters that cover cognitive development, including cognitive processes, cognition and communication, and conceptual understanding, as well as foundational issues. Each chapter is contributed by leading researchers in the field of cognitive development.

  • Goswami, Usha, ed. 2011. The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of childhood cognitive development. 2d ed. Malden, MA, and Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

    The twenty-nine chapters in this handbook are contributed by leading researchers in the field of cognitive development. Each chapter provides an overview of classic and current research in major topic areas of cognitive development.

  • Keen, Rachel. 2003. Representation of objects and events: Why do infants look so smart and toddlers look so dumb? Current Directions in Psychological Science 12.3: 79–83.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-8721.01234

    This theoretical article questions inconsistent findings from infant and toddler research that suggest that infants have great competency whereas toddlers show large deficits in abilities. There is particular discussion about differences in task demands between infant and toddler research methods.

  • Oakes, Lisa M. 2009. The “Humpty Dumpty problem” in the study of early cognitive development. Perspectives on Psychological Science?: A Journal of the Association for Psychological Science 4.4: 352–358.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-6924.2009.01137.x

    This theoretical article focuses on understanding infant cognitive development and observes that most research examines cognitive abilities in isolation. Discussion focuses on how abilities work together in development.

  • Siegler, Robert S., and Martha Wagner Alibali. 2004. Children’s thinking. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    This textbook provides an overview of cognitive development from infancy to adolescence. The chapters are arranged topically such that each chapter discusses a particular topic in the area of cognitive development.

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