One of the most influential psychologists of the twentieth century, Jerome S. Bruner played a major role in the modern “cognitive revolution.” Perhaps his most important contribution was that he helped establish cognitive psychology as an alternative to the behaviorist approach of figures such as Watson and Skinner.
Born in New York City in 1915, Bruner went to Duke University and then Harvard, where he received his Ph.D. in 1947. As a professor at Harvard, he helped found the Center for Cognitive Studies. In 1970, Bruner left Harvard to teach at Oxford University. A decade later, he was back in the United States, where he eventually became a faculty member at the New School for Social Research in New York City.
In the field of education, his landmark book The Process of Education (1960) elaborated on the work of Piaget and advanced his own personal theory of psychology and learning. As a curriculum innovator, he participated in designing and implementing the MACOS (Man: A Course of Study) project during the mid-1960s. Drawing on the emerging behavioral sciences, the curriculum attempted to address the following three questions: “What is uniquely human about human beings? How did they get that way? How could they be made more so?” By the mid-1970s, the curriculum was being criticized by conservatives as elitist.
While at Oxford during the early 1970s, Bruner began to pay more attention to the social and political context of learning. Criticizing elements of the “cognitive revolution,” Bruner’s new interest in cultural psychology was reflected in his book The Culture of Education (1996).
- Bruner, J. (1960). The process of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- Bruner, J. (1996). The culture of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- Olsen, D. (2007). Jerome Bruner: The cognitive revolution in educational theory. New York: Continuum.
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