Using sociology to extend psychological accounts of cognitive development

Jacqueline J. Goodnow*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Citations (Scopus)


Sociology and psychology share an interest in the acquisition of knowledge. The two traditions, however, are relatively disconnected, and psychologists rarely take advantage of the insights offered by sociologists. The present paper brings out two aspects of development strongly emphasized in sociological accounts but relatively neglected in psychological accounts. One is the acquisition of values about knowledge and skill (e.g., ideas about important skills, trivial knowledge, elegant solutions, or proper ways to learn particular subjects). The other is the need to consider the social environment not as neutral, benign, or free-market in quality, but as often directive, controlling, and heavily invested in the individual’s acquiring some ideas and avoiding others. The presence of these two aspects is noted in the work of 4 sociologists (Berger, Habermas, Bourdieu, and Foucault). The paper outlines how ideas contributed by these sociologists can be added to psychological accounts, with an emphasis on additions that (a) extend an interest already present in psychological theory, or (b) combine a new question about the nature and conditions of development with a specific psychological study that could provide a feasible starting point for research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-107
Number of pages27
JournalHuman Development
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 1990


  • Environment
  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Social context
  • Social institutions
  • Socialization
  • Sociology
  • Values

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