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Gopnik, Alison

Alison Gopnik

Alison is a professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley. She is an internationally recognised leader in the study of children’s learning and development and was the first to argue that children’s minds could help us understand deep philosophical questions.

She is the author of several books including Words, thoughts and theories (coauthored with Andrew Meltzoff), The Scientist in the Crib (coauthored with Andrew Meltzoff and Patricia Kuhl) and The Philosophical Baby; What children’s minds tell us about love, truth and the meaning of life and, most recently, The Gardener and the Carpenter.

  • The wisdom and encouragement she gave us was both inspiring and accessible. I encourage you to read at least one of her books (The Philosophical Baby and The Gardener and the Carpenter are her most recent) or articles to support and inform your beliefs about play and child development. Here is Alison being interviewed by Siren films at the conference. This link also has a transcript of the interview.
  • There are more links to Alison's work on our events page
  • What is useful is that as a professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkely Alison Gopnik combines scientific research to validate and confirm what we believe to be right about early education - that play and childhood matter, that play supports healthy brain development and that human brains are bigger and more intelligent because of this long period of dependence. 
  • At the conference Alison told us about some recent research by students of hers which is also in a recent piece for the Wall street journal (May 11th) entitled How much do toddlers learn from play? In it she concludes something we have always believed in but how good it is for it to be substantiated and validated in scientific research

It’s difficult to systematically study something as unpredictable as play. Telling children in a lab to play seems to turn play into work. But clever studies like the one in Developmental Psychology are starting to show scientifically that children really do learn through play.

The inspirational sayings about play you find on the internet—“play is the work of childhood” or “play is the best form of research,” for example—aren’t just truisms. They may actually be truths.

More links 

updated Autumn 2017

You can follow Alison on twitter