York professors emeriti publish book on mental attention and human development

A new book by two York professors emeriti and senior scholars presents a general psychological theory addressing cognitive and affective processes and their development in infancy and childhood.The Working Mind book cover

The book The Working Mind: Meaning and Mental Attention in Human Development (MIT Press) was authored by Juan Pascual-Leone, professor emeritus (psychology) and senior scholar, and Janice M. Johnson, associate professor emeritus and senior scholar. Pascual-Leone and Johnson are co-directors of the Developmental Processes Laboratory at York University.

The authors propose a general organismic-causal theory that explicates working memory and executive function developmentally, and by doing so, clarifies the nature of human intelligence.

Pascual-Leone and Johnson explain “from within” (that is, from a subject’s own processing perspective) cognitive developmental stages of growth, describing key causal factors that can account for the emergence of the working mind as a functional totality. Among these factors is a maturationally growing mental attention.

"It describes cognitive developmental stages of growth as well as key causal factors that can account for emergence of the working mind," says Johnson. "The book presents a novel method of mental task analysis that models task solution processes and provides quantitative estimates of demand for mental attention."

After reviewing meaning-driven processes and constructivist knowledge principles that underlie what Pascual-Leone and Johnson term their Theory of Constructive Operators (TCO), they propose the TCO as a developmental and neuropsychological approach to human cognitive and affective processes and their development, a resulting novel method of mental task analysis that generates from-within process models of subjects’ attempts to solve specific tasks.

The book offers an interpretation of brain semiotic processes that deploys TCO in functionally distinct brain locations, and the authors show how TCO explicates complex human issues including consciousness, the self, the will, motivation, and individual differences, with applications in education, psychotherapy, and cognitive neuropsychology.

The Working Mind: Meaning and Mental Attention in Human Development is available on April 13.

For more York University news, photos and videos, visit the YFile homepage