Publication 6391

Xu F. (2019) Towards a rational constructivist theory of cognitive development. Psychological Review 126(6): 841–864. Fulltext at
This article provides a synthesis and overview of a theory of cognitive development, rational constructivism. The basic tenets of this view are as follows: (a) Initial state: Human infants begin life with a set of proto-conceptual primitives. These early representations are not in the format of a language of thought. (b) Mature state: Human adults represent the world in terms of a set of domain-specific intuitive theories. (c) Three types of mechanisms account for learning, development, and conceptual change: language and symbol learning, Bayesian inductive learning, and constructive thinking. (d) The child is an active learner, and cognitive agency is part and parcel of development. I will discuss each of these tenets, and provide an overview of the kind of empirical evidence that supports this view. This is a non-Piagetian view though it is in the spirit of constructivist theories of development; this view emphasizes the utility of formal computational models in understanding learning and developmental change. Lastly, this view also has implications for the study of philosophy of mind and epistemology.

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