ISBN: 9780262368445 | 333 pp. | February 2022


Childhood and the Lifelong Love of Science

From an early age, children pepper adults with questions that ask why and how: Why do balloons float? How do plants grow from seeds? Why do birds have feathers? Young children have a powerful drive to learn about their world, wanting to know not just what something is but also how it got to be that way and how it works. Most adults, on the other hand, have little curiosity about whys and hows; we might unlock a door, for example, or boil an egg, with no idea of what happens to make such a thing possible. How can grown-ups recapture a child's sense of wonder at the world? In this book, Frank Keil describes the cognitive dispositions that set children on their paths of discovery and explains how we can all become lifelong wonderers.

Keil describes recent research on children's minds that reveals an extraordinary set of emerging abilities that underpin their joy of discovery—their need to learn not just the facts but the underlying causal patterns at the very heart of science. This glorious sense of wonder, however, is stifled, beginning in elementary school. Later, with little interest in causal mechanisms, and motivated by intellectual blind spots, as adults we become vulnerable to misinformation and manipulation—ready to believe things that aren't true. Of course, the polymaths among us have retained their sense of wonder, and Keil explains the habits of mind and ways of wondering that allow them—and can enable us—to experience the joy of asking why and how.


Table of Contents

  1. [ Front Matter ]
  2. Preface
  3. Acknowledgments
  4. I. The Cognitive Gifts of Childhood
  5. 1. The Puzzle and the Promise
  6. 2. Early Exploration and Discovery
  7. 3. Working with Others
  8. 4. The Mechanistic Mind
  9. II. The Big Sleep: Weakening Wonder
  10. 5. Developmental Disconnects
  11. 6. Motivational Muddles
  12. III. Disengagement and Its Discontents
  13. 7. Seductive Detours
  14. 8. It’s a Wonderless Life
  15. 9. Great Reawakenings
  16. Notes
  17. Index