Jerome Kagan - Biography
Jerome Kagan was born in 1929, and grew up in Rahway, New Jersey, USA. Kagan is currently retired after being a professor at Harvard University in the Developmental program . He is one of the key pioneers of developmental psychology. He is Daniel and Amy Starch Research Professor of Psychology, Emeritus at Harvard University, and co-faculty at the New England Complex Systems Institute. He has shown that an infant's "temperament" is quite stable over time, in that certain behaviors in infancy are predictive of certain other behavior patterns in adolescence. He did extensive work on temperament and gave insight on emotion.
Kagan was listed as the 22nd most eminent psychologist of the 20th Century, just above Carl Jung.
Kagan was born to Joseph and Mytle Kagan on February 25, 1929. Jerome chose to study Psychology due to his attraction in being a scientist and to preserve his father's interest in human nature . He was accepted at Yale University to study Psychology, where he earned his Ph.D. and he earned his Master's degree from Harvard University.. He earned a B.S. Degree from Rutgers University in 1950. While at Yale University, he assisted Frank Beach, a well respected researcher. After he graduated from Yale University, he accepted his first faculty position at Ohio State University. Six months later, in 1955 he was recruited to be apart of the research team at the U.S. Army Hospital during the Korean War. Once he had finished his time at the U.S. Army Hospital, the director of the Fels Research Institute contacted Kagan to ask him to direct a project that was funded by the National Institutes of Health, which he accepted. After that project was completed, he accepted the offer he received from Harvard University to be involved in creating the first Human Development program. Once he moved to Harvard, he remained there until retirement, with the exception of a leave to go and study children in San Macros. He did this for a year, from 1971 to 1972, and then returned to Harvard as a professor.
While at Fels, Kagan did extensive research on personality traits beginning with infancy and continued through adulthood. He looked at whether or not early experiences affected the participants' future personalities, talents and characters. Kagan read up on all of the longitudinal information that was prepared, specifically, the responses to intelligence tests that were administered to them. When Kagan was reviewing the material collected in childhood and adulthood, he found that the first three years in childhood showed little relation to the data collected in adulthood. The results of the Fels study was discussed in Kagan's book, Birth to Maturity, in 1962. Kagan's next research was in San Macros, Guatemala. During this time, Kagan discovered that biological factors play a huge role in development and an even larger part in child development. Specifically, he found that these children had slower Psychological development when in their homes due to their restricted experiences. Once the children were walking and could leave the home, Kagan found that the psychological delay in development was only temporary, and that cognitive growth is malleable. While at Harvard University, Kagan studied infants up to two years and published his work in his book, The Second Year. By the method of observation, Kagan found that there were major changes in Psychological functioning between 19 and 24 months, as well that at one years old, the children were sensitive to events that deviated from the norms of their experiences. Kagan's next research project was to look at the effects of infant daycare, since the congress was considering funding federal day care centres for working mothers. He and two others, Richard Kearsley and Philip Zelazo, created their own daycare in Boston's Chinatown, and compared these infants to infants who stayed at home with their mothers. In the late 1970's, Kagan studied temperament with a student who was writing a thesis. This project was funded by the President of the Spencer Foundation.
He is the author of:
- Personality and the learning Process (1965)
- Reflection- Impulsivity and Reading Ability in Primary Grade Children (1965)
- Personal Development (1971)
- The growth of the child. Reflections on human development (1978)
- The Nature of the Child (1982)
- An argument for mind (2006)
- What is emotion?: History, measures, and meanings (2007)
- In defense of Qualitative Changes in Development (2008)
- The three cultures: Natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities in the 21st century (2009)
- Once more into the Breach (2010)
- The temperamental thread. How genes, culture, time, and luck make us who we are (2010) [Trad. esp.: El temperamento y su trama. Cómo los genes, la cultura, el tiempo y el azar inciden en nuestra personalidad, Buenos Aires/Madrid, Katz editores, 2011, ISBN 9788492946327]
- On the Need for Relativism. American Psychologist, 1967, 22, 131-142.
Some of the books Kagan has written or co-written include:
- Birth to Maturity (1962)
- Understanding Children: Behavior, Motives, and Thought (1971)
- The Second Year: The Emergence of Self-Awareness (1981)
- Unstable Ideas: Temperament, Cognition, and Self (1989)
- Galen’s prophecy: Temperament in human nature (1994)
- Three Seductive Ideas (2000)
- A Young Mind in a Growing Brain (2005)
According to Kagan, (conventionally):
Temperament is perhaps what Kagan is best known for. He began his work on temperament after his research in Guatemala. Kagan primarily focused on children’s fear and apprehension. He created two types of temperament; inhibited and uninhibited. Inhibited refers to a shy, timid, and fearful profile of a child, whereas uninhibited refers to the appearance of bold, sociable and outgoing behaviours. As a result of his ground breaking work on temperament, we know that these characteristics have the ability to influence later behavior depending on how they interact with the environment. Kagan also believed that there is no guarantee of an indefinitely stable profile considering environmental factors are always changing and that both genes and environmental factors influence a child's temperament
Although emotion is not what Kagan is known for, he did bring some work into this field. Kagan explained emotion as occurring in four dinstinct phases. The first phase is the brain state, which is created by an incentive, the second stage is the detection of changes in bodily movement. The third stage is the appraisal of a change in bodily feeling, and the last stage is where there are observable changes in facial expression and muscle tension. Kagan questioned relying on individual's verbal statements of their feelings. He provided several reasons for this. Firstly, he argued that the English language does not have enough words to describe all emotional states. Secondly, the words to explain emotional states do not convey the differences in the quality or the serverity of it. Lastly, you cannot translate emotional words from one language to another accurately.
Kagan won the Hofheimer Prize of the American Psychiatric Association in 1963. In 1995, He won the G. Stanley Hall Award of the American Psychological Association (APA).
- Kagan's NECSI Web Page (with a photo of him)
- The Ideas of Jerome Kagan A link to the CBC Radio One Ideas Show
- Interview with Jerome Kagan (CBC Radio One Ideas Podcast, (no longer available))
- The Meaning of Psychological Abnormality by Jerome Kagan
- Why the Arts Matter: Six Good Reasons for Advocating the Importance of Arts in School address at the Learning, Arts, and the Brain Conference, Baltimore, May 2009