Shultz, T. R., & Mareschal, D. (1997). Rethinking innateness, learning, and constructivism: Connectionist perspectives on development. Cognitive Development, 12, 563-586.



The book "Rethinking Innateness: A Connectionist Perspective on Development", written by six of the major researchers in the area of connectionist approaches to development, is a major contribution to the issue of transition mechanisms in language and cognitive development. The work admittedly does not present a theory but rather a framework or set of conceptual tools for thinking about transitions in development. The title of our review deliberately modifies Elman et al.'s title, adding the contrasting terms "learning" and "constructivism", and extending the discussion to "multiple connectionist perspectives". Their book covers learning and innateness in great detail, but as our review makes clear, it avoids serious consideration of constructivist ideas and alternative connectionist perspectives that are suggested by constructivism.

            Our review begins with some background to situate the work in the historical and contemporary developmental literature. Then we focus on some of the principal contributions of the book, present a critique based primarily on what the book ignores, and attempt some degree of synthesis between competing connectionist approaches to development, integrating what the book covers and what it leaves out. Finally, we comment on the companion volume of computer exercises.


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