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October 1: Jerome Bruner and Cognitive Psychology

October 1, 2013
jerome-bruner-4Psychologist Jerome Seymour Bruner, who created techniques for investigating the perceptions of infants and formally initiated the study of cognitive psychology with his 1956 book, A Study of Thinking, was born in New York on this date in 1915. He received his doctorate from Harvard in 1941 and returned to teach there after serving in the psychological warfare division in Eisenhower’s Allied army in Europe during World War II. Bruner’s experiments in the late 1940s and 1950s revealed that a subject’s perceptions, values, and life condition create “internal interpretations” that strongly shape psychological response, which led him to establish the Center of Cognitive Studies at Harvard and to investigate the development of children’s minds and to design educational structures and curricula. Bruner proposed the “spiral curriculum,” a teaching approach in which each subject or skill area is revisited at regular intervals, with increasing sophistication. Between 1964-1996, he developed a complete curriculum for the educational system that he called Man: A Course of Study. Today, Bruner, who has written more than forty books, is Senior Research Fellow in Law at New York University. To hear him reflecting on his life and career, look below. “The shrewd guess, the fertile hypothesis, the courageous leap to a tentative conclusion — these are the most valuable coins of the thinker at work. But in most schools guessing is heavily penalized and is associated somehow with laziness.” —Jerome Bruner