The developmental psychology of Jean Piaget: A quinquagenary retrospective

Ulrich Müller, Jeremy Trevelyan Burman, Sarah Michelle Hutchison

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289 Citations (Scopus)


John Flavell's monograph, The Developmental Psychology Jean Piaget—now celebrating its fiftieth (quinquagenary) anniversary—has been described as a “game changer” (W. Overton, personal communication, May 15, 2012). Its publication, along with that of Joseph McVicker Hunt's (1961) Intelligence and Experience,was transformational for American psychology: “it was from this time that developmental psychology in the United States began its growth toward maturity as a scientific discipline” (Pickren, 2012, p. 197). That said, however, Piaget was not an unknown figure in North America when these books were first published. His early work had been translated in the late 1920s and early 1930s and received considerable attention (Piaget, 1923/1926, 1924/1928, 1926/1929, 1927/1930, 1932/1932). Indeed, in 1936, Piaget was awarded an honorary doctorate from Harvard University, although—perhaps tellingly—this was not in psychology but in literature (Hsueh, 2004, 2009). Interest in Piaget's work then decreased considerably between the mid-1930s and 1950; his work from that period was not immediately translated and he did not receive attention in the pertinent handbooks (Flavell, 1962a). The 1950s saw the start of a period of “resurgence” (Anthony, 1957), “revival” (Flavell, 1957; also Flavell, 1963, p. 9) and “rediscovery” (Duckworth, 1964; also Hsueh, 2005) of Piaget's work. The translation of Piaget's books resumed (Piaget, 1947/1950, 1936/1952, 1941/1952, 1953, 1937/1954; Piaget & Inhelder, 1948/1956; also Inhelder & Piaget, 1955/1958). He was invited to contribute a chapter to the fourth volume of A History of Psychology in Autobiography (Piaget, 1952b). Courses on Piagetian theory were offered (e.g., Flavell's course at Rochester, Wayne Dennis' at CUNY (Pulaski, 1980, p. xvii), and Dan Berlyne's at Boston University [W. Overton, personal communication, May 15, 2012]). And the theoretical climate in psychology began to change (Bruner, 1983; Hsueh, 2009). At the time, Flavell (1962a) characterized this history as follows: “the pattern over the past 40 years seems to have been an early (and one-course) breakfast, almost no lunch, and at least what looks like the promise of a late but perhaps full-course dinner” (p. 15).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-55
JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1-Jan-2013
Externally publishedYes

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