Department of Educational Psychology


Document Type


Date of this Version

December 1998


Published in D. Kuhn & R. Siegler (Eds.), W. Damon (Series Ed.), Handbook of child psychology (5th Ed.). Vol. 2. Cognition, perception, and language (pp. 947–978). New York: Wiley. 1998. Copyright ©1998 John Wiley & Sons. Used by permission.


Concluding this volume on children’s cognition, this chapter addresses developmental changes in cognition that extend beyond childhood. I will not trace cognitive change across the entire span of adulthood (for lifespan accounts, see Cerella, Rybash, Hoyer, & Commons, 1993; Commons, Richards, & Armon, 1984; Craik & Salthouse, 1993; Holliday & Chandler, 1986; Hoyer & Rybash, 1994; Kausler, 1994; Lachman & Burack, 1993; Miller & Cook-Greuter, 1994; Rybash, Hoyer, & Roodin, 1986; Sinnott & Cavanaugh, 1991). Rather, I highlight changes associated with the second (and to a lesser extent the third) decade of life. The research reviewed suggests that developmental changes in cognition, at least in some individuals, continue at least through adolescence and early adulthood.

In the opening sections of the chapter, I address a variety of historical, theoretical, and methodological considerations regarding advanced cognitive development. I then argue that the central locus of developmental change in cognition beyond childhood is in reasoning— that is, in the deliberate application of epistemic constraints to one’s own thinking. Three forms of reasoning— case-based, law-based, and dialectical—are distinguished and developmental research relevant to each is reviewed. Finally, I attempt to explain advanced cognitive development by proposing a metacognitive, constructivist, and pluralist conception of human rationality.