Bruner, in reassessing the cognitive revolution, argues for the centrality of ‘meaning-making’ in human activity, claiming that children learn to give meaning to what people do as they learn the language and social practices of their culture. The role played by the attribution of mental states to others has been studied intensely in the past decade in a new research area that has come to be known as children’s ‘theory of mind’. Researchers in this field who, unlike Bruner, see psychology as a natural empirical science, view the child as constructing a causal theory to explain and predict human action. They base their arguments largely on experimental observation of children’s performance in laboratory tasks, especially the ‘false-belief’ task. In contrast, many researchers who take Bruner’s view study the development of social understanding in naturalistic observation of children’s interaction with peers and family members. In this article we examine the relations between these views and suggest that the real challenge of the cognitive revolution is to unite the two approaches, to achieve a causal, naturalistic account of the acquisition and elaboration of meaning-making.

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