Jean Mandler


to the developmental wing of Cognitive Science.

We have gradually come to realize that one of the best ways to understand the complexities of mental processes is to find their origins in infancy and trace them as they develop over time. My goal is to understand the foundations of mind, a project informally known as "how to build a baby". For an overview see my article on Representation in the 1998 Handbook of Child Psychology, listed in my vita. My book "The Foundations of Mind: Origins of Conceptual Thought", published by Oxford University Press, came out in 2004. (It received the APA Eleanor Maccoby Book Award in 2006 and the Cognitive Development Society Best Authored Book Award in 2007, and is now out in paperback and on-line as well).

My research for the past two decades investigated concept formation in infancy. Contrary to the traditional Piagetian view of infants as purely sensorimotor creatures, we found they are developing a rich conceptual life from an early age. Many of the first concepts are broad and global in nature, such as "animal," or "inanimate indoor things." Gradually over the first two years these broad concepts become differentiated into concepts such as "land animal," then "dog," or "furniture," then "chair." Many of my recent articles focus on how the first global concepts guide inductive inferences about the world and help to form a hierarchically organized conceptual system. We have also investigated preverbal spatial concepts and how they are used to learn relational terms. My most recent work has been an attempt to specify a mechanism that transforms perceptual information into concepts using a small set of spatial primitives, and then to show how these foundational concepts become enriched in various ways. See the last two abstracts below.

If you are interested in using the object-examination technique to study infant cognitive development, click here to see a how-to manual. Note that it is important to differentiate looking from examining, because they do not produce the same data.

Here is a list of a few mostly recent papers. Click on them to see the abstracts and the pdf version of the articles. Note that the article "On the birth and growth of concepts" is the published version of a chapter entitled "In the beginning" that was forthcoming in the Cambridge University Press book "Responses to Fodor's problem of concept acquisition." The book did not come forth.

Just in case you meant to reach the other Mandler at UCSD, click here for George Mandler in the Psychology Department.


December to June July to November
Department of Cognitive Science 3 Perrin's Lane
University of California, San Diego London, NW3 1QY
La Jolla, CA 92093-0515
Telephone: +1 858 454-0933 Telephone: +44 20 7794-0821
Email (all year):