Symbolic Thought

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The ability to think in terms of symbols is a remarkable achievement in individual cognitive development, and one that interacts with enculturation. 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 children’s problem solving.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Infant and Early Childhood Development, Three-Volume Set
ISBN (Electronic)9780123708779
ISBN (Print)9780123704603
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • 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


Dive into the research topics of 'Symbolic Thought'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this