Acting Up: An Approach to the Study of Cognitive Development
Despite decades of research, we lack a comprehensive framework to study and explain cognitive development. The emerging “paradigm” of action-based cognition implies that cognitive development is an active rather than a passive, automatic, and self-paced maturational process. Importantly, “active” refers to both sensorimotor activity (in the narrow sense) as well as to autonomous exploration (e.g., as found in active perception or active learning). How does this emphasis on action affect our understanding of cognitive development? Can an action-based approach provide a much-needed integrative theory of cognitive development? This chapter reviews key factors that influence development (including sensorimotor skills as well as genetic, social, and cultural factors) and their associated brain mechanisms. Discussion focuses on how these factors can be incorporated into a comprehensive action-based framework. Challenges are highlighted for future research (e.g., problems associated with explaining higher-level cognitive abilities and devising novel experimental methodologies). Although still in its infancy, an action-based approach to cognitive development holds promise to improve scientific understanding of cognitive development and to impact education and technology.