This book gives readers a systematic look at the process of child psychology by examining the twenty most revolutionary scientific investigations in the field over the course of the last fifty years. The individual chapters are dedicated to each revolutionary study and derived from empirical data and scientific methodology. A four-part organization examines studies that revolutionized cognitive and language development, social development and parenting, clinical child psychology, and how we think about child psychology. For those with a professional or personal interest in child and human development.
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I don't claim to have any special knowledge of how the field of child psychology operates. I'm just an average Joe trying to make a living doing what child psychologists do. One of the most important things they do is read the work of other child psychologists. Over the two decades or so that I've been reading these works, I've developed a fairly comprehensive classification scheme for what I think are the most important research topics, who are the most influential child psychologists, and which are the most revolutionary scientific publications. In fact, I've gotten to the point that whenever I read the work of another child psychologist, the second thing I do is look over the References section (the first thing I do is read the title and abstract). The reason I turn to the references first is that I believe I can get a good sense of the tone, the purpose, and the outcome of the article, just by seeing who gets cited in it. My predictions are usually right on target.
But about 5 years ago, I began to wonder whether other child psychologists had developed their own mental classification schemes, and whether their schemes were similar to mine. For example, I wondered whether other researchers considered the works of Robert Fantz and Renée Baillargeon as revolutionary as I believed they were. So in the summer of 2000, I launched a major research project of my own in an attempt to uncover the major child psychology research projects published in the second half of the 20th century. I asked child psychologists from all walks of life to nominate and vote on the studies they believed were the Most Important, Most Revolutionary, Most Controversial, and Most Fascinating. This book describes the 20 Most Revolutionary Studies.
The project was a major undertaking, and I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the contributions of a number of generous individuals. I must first acknowledge the overwhelming effort put forth by Debbie Hoffman. Deb was involved in this project every step of the way; she pulled names from the Membership Registry of the Society for Research in Child Development, typed up mailing labels, taped gold coins to individual recruitment letters, helped tally the results, and reviewed my entire book for typos and grammatical errors. I am extremely grateful to her. Thanks also go to Chuck Moon, who helped me come up with the research design for the data collection portion of the project. Thanks are due to a number of individuals who read, commented on, or otherwise provided guidance for how I might approach individual chapters, including Timothy Anderson, Daniel Cruikshanks, Margaret Evans, Brian Haley, Michele Moser, and Ken Porada. Relatedly I thank a number of people who provided useful information: Steve Velazquez, Bob Berg, Ayako Tabusa, Xiaoming Huang, and Muthoni Kimemia. Thanks also to the following reviewers: Tara Kuther, Western Connecticut State University; Judy Payne, Murray State University; Joseph D. Sclafani, The University of Tampa; and Roger Van Horn, Central Michigan University. Finally, I wish to acknowledge a number of the Top 20 authors and their close acquaintances for giving me direction and suggestions for ways to approach the book; among these are Joe Fagan, Emmy Werner, Renee Baillargeon, Arnie Sameroff, and Ursula Bellugi.
A number of people deserve special mention for providing me with the mental fortitude to pursue the project: Esther Strahan for telling me my book-writing future was inevitable, Peg Smith for telling me it was about time I wrote a book, Wallace Dixon, Sr., for telling me book writing is where the real money is, Tirrr Lawson for outdoing me and writing his own book first, and Jennifer Gilliland for thier continued support and encouragement and for telling me I was a "great writer." Finally, special thanks with sugar on top go to my wife, Michele Moser, and my daughters, Rachel and Sarah, for giving me up on all those late, late nights when I went into the office and word-processed till the wee hours of the morning.
WALLACE E. DIXON, JR.
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