Description of the book


Computational Developmental Psychology

by Thomas R. Shultz

Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003

$38     322 pages       ISBN 0-262-19483-X


Despite decades of scientific research, the core issues of child development remain too complex to be explained by traditional verbal theories. These issues include structure and transition, representation and processing, innate and experiential determinants of development, stages of development, the purpose and end of development, and the relation between knowledge and learning. This book shows how computational modeling can be used to capture these complex phenomena, and lays the foundation for a new subfield of developmental psychology, computational developmental psychology.

A principal approach in developmental thinking is the constructivist one. Constructivism is the Piagetian view that the child builds new cognitive structures by using current mental structures to understand new events. The book features constructivist models using neural networks that grow as well as learn. This allows for qualitative changes in processing mechanisms and implements synaptogenesis and neurogenesis. The book's appendices provide additional background on the mathematical concepts used, and its website contains useful computational packages.

Thomas R. Shultz is Professor of Psychology and Computer Science and Director of the Laboratory of Natural and Simulated Cognition at McGill University.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. A Neural-Network Primer
  3. Knowledge Representation
  4. Developmental Transitions
  5. Stages of Development
  6. Objections and Rebuttals
  7. On the Horizon



  1. Understanding Derivatives
  2. Derivative of Error with Respect to Output
  3. Derivative of the Asigmoid Activation Function
  4. Weight Adjustments in Quickprop


Sample chapter