, Volume 122, Issue 1–2, pp 29–51 | Cite as

How the Mind Grows: A Developmental Perspective on the Biology of Cognition

  • Paul E. Griffiths
  • Karola Stotz


The ‘developmental systems’ perspective in biology is intended to replace the idea of a genetic program. This new perspective is strongly convergent with recent work in psychology on situated/embodied cognition and on the role of external ‘scaffolding’ in cognitive development. Cognitive processes, including those which can be explained in evolutionary terms, are not ‘inherited’ or produced in accordance with an inherited program. Instead, they are constructed in each generation through the interaction of a range of developmental resources. The attractors which emerge during development and explain robust and/or widespread outcomes are themselves constructed during the process. At no stage is there an explanatory stopping point where some resources control or program the rest of the developmental cascade. ‘Human nature’ is a description of how things generally turn out, not an explanation of why they turn out that way. Finally, we suggest that what is distinctive about human development is its degree of reliance on external scaffolding.


Recent Work Cognitive Process Human Development Genetic Program Human Nature 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul E. Griffiths
    • 1
  • Karola Stotz
    • 2
  1. 1.Unit for History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of SydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Karola Stotz Department of PhilosophyUniversity of GhentGhentBelgium

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