Symbolic Thought

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


The ability to think in terms of symbols is a remarkable achievement in individual cognitive development, and one that interacts with cultural learning. The development of symbolic thought is described as a hierarchical process in which children come to reflect on symbols and symbol-referent relations. Factors that facilitate the development of symbolic thought are identified, as are the consequences of symbolic thought for problem solving. Topics of future research on symbolic thought include the neural correlates of reflection, the social-cultural practices that promote symbolic thought, and the precise role of symbols in childrens problem solving.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Infant and Early Childhood Development
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9780128165119
ISBN (Print)9780128165126
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Inc.


  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Delay of gratification
  • Executive function
  • Imitation
  • Inner speech
  • Intentionality
  • Labeling
  • Levels of consciousness
  • Mediation
  • Memory
  • Perspective-taking
  • Pretend play
  • Problem solving
  • Reflection
  • Representation


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