As infants we are rife with potential. For a short time, we have before us a seemingly infinite number of developmental paths. Soon, however, we become limited to certain paths as we grow into unique products of our genetics and experience. But what factors account for the variation—in skills, personalities, values—that results? How do experiences shape what we bring into the world?
In The Human Spark, pioneering psychologist Jerome Kagan offers an unflinching examination of personal, moral, and cultural development that solidifies his place as one of the most influential psychologists of the past century. In this definitive analysis of the factors that shape the human mind, Kagan explores the tension between biology and the environment. He reviews major advances in the science of development over the past three decades and offers pointed critiques and new syntheses. In so doing, Kagan calls out the shortcomings of the modern fad for neuroscience, shows why theories of so-called attachment parenting are based on a misinterpretation of research, and questions the field’s reflexive tendency to pathologize the behavior of the young. Most importantly, he reminds us that a life, however influenced by biology and upbringing, is still a tapestry to be woven, not an outcome to be endured.
A profound exploration of what is universal and what is individual in human development, The Human Spark is the result of a scientist’s lifelong quest to discover how we become who we are. Whether the reader is a first-time parent wondering what influence she, her genes, and the wider world will have on her child; an educator seeking insight into the development of her students; or simply a curious soul seeking self-knowledge, Kagan makes an expert and companionable guide.
Reviews and Endorsements:
“Entertaining and intellectually engaging.”—Library Journal
“An intriguing overview of many of the underlying assumptions guiding modern psychology.”—Kirkus Reviews
“An insightful discussion of the epistemology of psychology…. [Kagan] offers illuminating discussions of the impact of culture on childhood development…. [A] fascinating summary of the current science behind human development from one of the leaders in the field.”—Publishers Weekly
“The Human Spark is a book painted with a broad stroke to bring into relief the panorama of human development. From culture and history and biology to parental practices, social class and morality, this book reveals all the hills and valleys of the psychology of becoming human. Jerome Kagan writes with the authority that comes with six decades of experience understanding the science of human development.”—Mahzarin R. Banaji, Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics, Harvard University, and coauthor of Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People
“Another Kagan masterpiece! As ever, he is helpfully provocative and challenging, but what he writes is scholarly, informed by up-to-date research, culturally sensitive, and with appropriate references to literary as well as scientific sources. The book is said to be about development but it is as much about broad concepts such as morality and emotion and especially about scientific strategies. Most of all, it is highly engaging and very readable.”—Sir Michael Rutter, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London
About the Author:
Jerome Kagan is emeritus professor of psychology at Harvard University and one of the pioneers of the field of developmental psychology. The author of numerous books including The Nature of the Child and Galen’s Prophecy, he received the William James Award and the Distinguished Scientist Award from the American Psychological Association. Kagan is a member of The Institute for Medicine.