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The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are Paperback – 21 Mar 2002

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 394 pages
  • Publisher: Guilford Press; 1 edition (21 Mar. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572307404
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572307407
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 415,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


'Why can't we remember what we did at age three? Why are some children unusually shy? What is the biochemistry of humiliation, and how can it be 'toxic to the developing child's brain'? New and plausible answers to these questions emerge from Siegel's synthesis of neurobiology, research psychology and cognitive science ... His subject-how we become the people we are-deserves to hold many readers spellbound.' - Publishers Weekly

'This is just the right book, on a very hot topic, at just the right time, by just the right author....This is a book to stimulate, illuminate, and drive our understanding of human developmental processes forwards.' - Child Psychology and Psychiatry

About the Author

Daniel J. Siegel received his medical degree from Harvard University and completed his postgraduate medical education at the University of California, Los Angeles, with training in pediatrics, general adult psychiatry, and child and adolescent psychiatry.

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Format: Paperback
The hardback and paperback editions of this book have different subtitles:

Paperback: "How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are"

Hardback: "Towards a neurobiology of interpersonal experience"

These subtitles tell you a lot more about the book than the title does alone. It's not really about developmental psychology, it's about relationships between people and how these affect the functioning of the brain. The hardback's subtitle also makes it clear that this book uses a lot of big words.

So what do relationships have to do with anything? Siegel gives us a detailed introduction to research into what psychologists call "attachment" and (to quote Alison Gopnik) everyone else calls "love". Siegel makes the point that secure attachment requires good two-way emotional communication between child and caregiver, and discusses the impact that attachment relationships have on children's emotions and their capacity to regulate their own emotions. Emotion, Siegel explains, is central to everything the brain does, and the brain's ability to regulate and respond flexibly to its own emotions is an important part of proper mental functioning.

The great strength of this book is the way that it integrates seemingly quite different things (memory, emotions, relationships, self-regulation, and a hefty dose of neurobiology) and does it in a way that makes sense. It is not an easy read, but it is well worth it.
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By Glyn on 19 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm still working my way through this book as it's quite deep and I'm not really up to understanding it all. I like it's thoroughness (is that the correct word?) and while I may not be able to follow all the reasoning, I like to know the end result, which anyone can follow. It's a book you can really get your teeth into.
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Good book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.3 out of 5 stars 33 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review from 16 May 2012
By Christy A - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Daniel J. Siegel has quite the pedigree: medical degree from Harvard University, postgraduate education from UCLA, successful author, speaker, and psychiatrist. His most significant literary contribution, The Developing Mind, received acclaim from such sources as the American Journal of Psychiatry, the Psychiatric Times, and colleagues from Columbia University, UCLA, and the University of Edinburgh. Siegel weaves information, both theoretical and practical, together from the areas of neurobiology, child development, systems theory, complexity and attachment theory, memory and emotion. His has the ability to take multifarious constructs and present them in a way that engages and educates his intended audience: clinicians, educators, researchers and students.

In the preface, Siegel discloses his thesis; that "interactions with the environment, especially relationships with other people, directly shape the development of the brain's structure and function" (p. xii). Siegel fully unveils to his readership the fundamental principles behind his perspective and then summarizes the content and contribution of each subsequent chapter. While some readers might be tempted to read those introductory comments and feel that they have grasped the focus of the text, the detailed introduction serves as more of an enticement to read further.

After a brief review of brain neurobiology and development, Siegel's begins his presentation with a discussion on memory. He notes that "information is encoded and retrieved through the synaptic changes that direct the flow of energy through the neural system, the brain" (p. 24). Siegel addresses the dynamics at work within the brain's structure that allow for plasticity and the implantation of experiential history.

Siegel then presents a thorough yet concise overview of attachment theory noting how early experiences relate to self-organization. He comments on how current research on emotion has demonstrated that emotion is not found only within the confines of the limbic regions, but is "found throughout the entire brain" (p. 122). He also posits that emotional activations are generated by the brain's value systems; he proposes that this dictates that both emotion and meaning come from the same source.

In a discussion about representations, Siegel focuses upon the interactions within the right and left sides of the brain and how the distinct features of each respective side contribute to relationship development, representational process, and reflection. Siegel relates this discussion about bilateral process to his foundational premise by noting how crucial it is that early neural connections share both energy and information. It is at this juncture that Siegel begins to expand further to address treatment, noting how focused reflective dialogue may foster bilateral integration.

Siegel furthers his argument by introducing the concept of the state of mind, a "clustering of functionally synergistic processes that allow the mind as a whole to form a cohesive state of activity" (p. 209). As development moves from simplicity toward complexity, the state of mind is set by both context and history. Early developmental activation shapes the structure of the brain's circuitry in such a way that later, contemporary states of mind are formed and reinforced based upon that early activation. Growth, in this perspective, then hinges upon the ability to create a stable, flexible coherence.

The topic of self-regulation is the natural outflow of the furthering discussion on mind organization and integration. Siegel addresses the irresponsible reductionistic thinking present in genetics vs. learning arguments. He posits that new information is interpreted by the brain's structure, both prior experiences and biological reality. This flow of energy and information is directed by emotional engagement with others. For adequate self-organization to occur, there must be neural integration. As noted in his introduction and as demonstrated strategically throughout The Developing Mind, it is Siegel's assertion that emotion is the central component to integration and that self-integration "is continually created by an interaction of internal neurophysiological processes and interpersonal relationships" (p. 314).

Siegel accomplishes the purpose established at the outset. He explores memory, attachment, emotion, representation, states of mind, self-regulation, interpersonal connection, and integration and presents them as a network that explains how self-regulation, interpersonal connections and mental integration are formed. The Developing Mind addresses etiology within this framework as well as practical applications for treatment. His key contribution to his field is an engaging read for his intended audience.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone Should Read This Book 27 Mar. 2009
By Norman Orr - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've only read about 50 pages so far and already this book has answered questions I've wondered about all my life (I'm 73 years old). Most of us wonder, at some time, why we do some things the way we do, or why we think a certain way about something important to us. And we often wonder similar things about others who are impotant to us. This book will help you answer those questions. The subject matter is complex, but Dr. Siegel and his editor, Kitty Moore (Dr. Siegel credits his editor with having helped him expand the scope of the book and make the information more accessible, p. xiv) jointly have made access to the information in the book possible for readers who are not experts in neuroanatomy and neuropsychology. I look forward, pleasantly, to reading the remainder of the book, and if allowed, would like to submit an addendum to my review when I have finished reading. I hope you will read it too. I know you won't be disappointed.

Addendum:Finished the book, and I double evereything I said about the book above. Very insightful, well written and filled with things you'd like to know about yourself and others.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Content of Recognition. 18 May 2010
By R. Stahl - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An understanding mind is a matter of recognition.

Moments of one's mental states are deserving of conscious awareness.
Making of a mind is achieved the participation of two people, particularly a parent.
A mind is created as another mind presents itself or presents an absence at particular instances two minds meet.

Mental states are constructed concepts giving rise to mayhem or order.
Each form extends either the expression of knowing or not knowing.
The reasons are vast for either.
Either mental bedlam or harmonious array, and between either are degrees of thought and emotion, builds the perception, the position, one senses in relation to others.

By your mindfully reading this book you might experience increasing awareness of knowing.
For me, the book's subject matter is consulted regularly.
Paragraphs are annotated; whole pages paraphrased; its reference, researched.
Its passages are pondered repeatedly.

After all, the content of this book deserves an inquiring mind's re-cognition.
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars 4 April 2017
By Kevin N. Canaday - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
77 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant treatise on how the mind develops by a credible author with good writing skills 18 Oct. 2006
By Patrick D. Goonan - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The essence of this book is captured in its very first paragraph, "the mind emerges at the interface of interpersonal experience and the structure and function of the brain." It goes on to explain how this is so in the various chapters that cover memory, emotion, construction of reality (via internal representations), states of mind, self regulation, interpersonal connection and integration.

The material is dense, but readable for most professionals and many educated laymen. It is particularly good at describing the integrative functions of the prefrontal areas of the brain, how they develop through social interpersonal experience and what the implications are when the right kind of developmental experiences are not present for the mind to develop to its full potential. As such, it considers the role of attachment in shaping the self, future relationships and the ability to manage emotions. The book does a very deep dive around all of these areas.

Dr. Siegel is a good writer and he packs a lot of information into this good in a highly digestible form. The most important points are repeated or mentioned parenthetically. Therefore, you can read this book and pick it up later without losing much in terms of flow. His examples are good and he doesn't sacrifice thick content. In other words, he says just enough to make his point and then moves on.

This book presents a strong argument for an "open-ended" nervous system. This notion is extended to love in another interesting book by three UCSF psychiatrists -- A GENERAL THEORY OF LOVE. Many of the concepts in this latter more accessible book are elaborated upon in detail in the Developing Mind. Lay readers, therefore, may want to start with this title and read The DEVELOPING MIND slowly as a companion text.

What this book doesn't address is the possibility of something that transcends the brain. For this, I would consider looking at THE ATMAN PROJECT by Ken Wilber. This book is more philosophical than scientific, but it presents a plausible model of transpersonal development with a lot of good psychological content. In particular, I like the way that Wilber presents the interior experience of a babies, infants, toddlers, etc. This is something that is not as clear in Dr. Siegel's book. Wilber also brings in our relationship to the physical environment and the entire universe. In short, it's a thought provoking extension to the subject of this review.

The Developing Mind is rigorous and it provides excellent references on every concept. The book hangs together well and it is written in a style that relates concepts back to day-to-day life very well. There are also good summaries of important points and useful quotes that help illustrate critical points.

If you want a quick bedside read, this is most likely not the book for you. However, if you want to understand how the mind develops and are willing to put in your time to contemplate the necessary detail to go beyond superficial explanations, you won't be disappointed. This is also a thoroughly researched and scientifically grounded text.

Some other books to consider that I feel compliment this work are Vital Lies, Simple Truths by Goleman (on the psychology of self deception), The Feeling of What Happens (by Damasio) and Philosophy in the Flesh by Lakoff and Johnson (on the embodied mind). The latter two books are more speculative, but they round out a theory of mind and are thoughtful theories worth exploring. The first book is easier to digest and will also appeal to a lay audience. The latter two challenge our traditional paradigm of the relationship of mind to body.

I can't say enough good things about THE DEVELOPING MIND. I have already read it three times and every time I pick it up I learn something new. It's a must own book for any mental health professional and should be of great interest to physicians particularly psychiatrists and pediatricians.
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