An ‘Is’ and ‘Ought’ of Developmental Psychology: Toward a Scientific Study of Human Ontogeny


This paper is an attempt to weave an account of developmental psychology that is alternately descriptive and normative.  In the descriptive mode it takes the discipline as data for which it seeks an explanation.  In the normative mode, it takes the discipline as an enterprise for which it seeks optimal goals, theories and methodologies.  Descriptive, it is anthropological, examining a Western sociocultural artifact.  Normative, it is psychological, participating in a scientific undertaking to systematically study human ontogeny.  Descriptive, it is on the outside looking in; normative, it is on the inside looking out.  Collectively this paper claims that developmental psychology neither is what it says it is nor what it ought to be and asks: What is this project called “developmental psychology” and how ought it best be conducted?