User:Dustinlull/Alison Gopnik

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Alison Gopnik
Alison Gopnik Photo.jpg
Born June 16, 1955
Citizenship American
Alma mater McGill University, Oxford University
Known for theory of mind, theory theory, causal learning
Scientific career
Fields Developmental psychology
Institutions University of California, Berkeley

Alison Gopnik (born June 16, 1955) is an American professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. She is known for her work in the areas of cognitive and language development, specializing in the effect of language on thought, the development of a theory of mind, and causal learning. Her writing on psychology and cognitive science has appeared in Science, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, New Scientist, Slate and others.[1] Her body of work also includes four books and over 100 journal articles. She has frequently appeared on TV and radio including The Charlie Rose Show and The Colbert Report. Slate writes of Gopnik, "One of the most prominent researchers in the field, Gopnik is also one of the finest writers, with a special gift for relating scientific research to the questions that parents and others most want answered. This is where to go if you want to get into the head of a baby."[2]

Academic career[edit]

Gopnik received a B.A., majoring in psychology and philosophy, from McGill University in 1975. In 1980, she received a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Oxford University. She worked at the University of Toronto before joining the faculty at UC Berkeley in 1988.[3]

Gopnik has done extensive work with applying Bayesian networks to human learning and has published and presented numerous papers on the topic.[3] Gopnik says of this work, "The interesting thing about Bayes nets is that they search out causes rather than mere associations. They give you a single representational structure for dealing both with things that just happen and with interventions--things you observe others doing to the world or things you do to the world. This is important because there is something really special about the way we treat and understand human action. We give it a special status in terms of our causal inferences. We think of human actions as things that you do that are designed to change things in the world as opposed to other events that just take place."[4]

Notable publications[edit]

Gopnik is an authority on the philosophy of mind and a preeminent developmental psychologist. Gopnik is known for advocating the "theory theory" which postulates that the same mechanisms used by scientists to develop scientific theories are used by children to develop causal models of their environment.[5] The "theory theory" was explored in "Words, Thoughts, and Theories," co-authored with Andrew N. Meltzoff. [6] Gopnik co-authored with Andrew N. Meltzoff and Patricia K. Kuhl "The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind." The book posits that the cognitive development of children in early life is made possible by three factors: innate knowledge, advanced learning ability, and the evolved ability of parents to teach their offspring.[7] "Causal Learning: Psychology, Philosophy, and Computation," edited with with Laura Schulz, explores causal learning and the interdisciplinary work done in furthering the understanding of learning and reasoning.[8] In her book "The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us about Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life," Gopnik explores how infants and young children cognitively develop by using processes similar to those used by scientists, including experimenting on their environment.[9] The book explains how an environment maximized for an infant's cognitive development is one that is safe to explore.[10] The book also explores what babies can tell us about love, imagination and identity, as well as considering the broader philosophical significance of care-giving.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Gopnik is the daughter of linguist Myrna Gopnik. She is the firstborn of six siblings[12] that include Blake Gopnik, the Newsweek art critic, and Adam Gopnik, a writer for The New Yorker.[5] She was formerly married to journalist George Lewinski and has three sons: Alexei, Nicholas, and Andres Gopnik-Lewinski.[13] She is now married to computer graphics pioneer Alvy Ray Smith.[14]


  • The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life (hardcover: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009, ISBN 978-0312429843) (softcover: Picador, 2010, ISBN 978-0312429843)
  • Causal Learning: Psychology, Philosophy, and Computation (Edited with Laura Schulz) (Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0195176803)
  • The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind (with Andrew N. Meltzoff and Patricia K. Kuhl) (hardcover: William Morrow, 1999, ISBN 978-0688159887) (softcover: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000, ISBN 978-0688177881)
  • Words, Thoughts, and Theories (with Andrew N. Meltzoff) (hardcover: The MIT Press, 1996, ISBN 978-0262071758) (softcover: A Bradford Book, 1998, ISBN 978-0262571265)


  1. ^ "Alison Gopnik". Auburn University. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  2. ^ Bloom, Paul. "What's Inside a Big Baby Head?". Slate. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Alison Gopnik, Ph.D. Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  4. ^ "What every baby knows". New Scientist. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Remmel, Ethan. "Brainstorming Babies". American Scientist. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  6. ^ "publisher description". The MIT Press. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  7. ^ Lerman, Kristina. "The Scientist in the Crib" (PDF). Information Sciences Institute. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  8. ^ "publisher description". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  9. ^ Hoffman, Jascha. "MIND Reviews: The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell". Recommendations from Scientific American MIND. Scientific American. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  10. ^ "New Book Offers Philosophical Insights into Babies' Thinking". University of California, Berkley. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  11. ^ Reiter, Amy. "Alison Gopnik: The Philosophical Baby author decodes your child's brain". 
  12. ^ Moorhead, Laurel. "Author Gopnik on the wonders of babies' brains". Oakland North. Retrieved 25 March 2012. 
  13. ^ Straus, Tamara. "'Philosophical Baby' author's thoughts on kids". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 25 March 2012. 
  14. ^ "Keynotes, bios, pix". Retrieved 26 March 2012. 

External links[edit]

Category:Alumni of the University of Oxford Category:American psychologists Category:American psychology writers Category:Cognitive scientists Category:Developmental psychologists Category:McGill University alumni Category:University of Toronto people Category:University of California, Berkeley faculty Category:Living people Category:Alumni of Wolfson College, Oxford Category:1955 births