Different is good: Connectionism and dynamic systems theory are complementary emergentist approaches to development

Linda B. Smith, Larissa K. Samuelson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Connectionist and dynamic systems approaches to development are similar in that they are both emergentist theories that take a very different perspective from more traditional symbolic systems. Moreover, they are both based on similar mathematical principles. Nevertheless, connectionism and dynamic systems differ in the approach they take to the study of development. We argue that differences between connectionist and dynamic systems approaches in terms of the basic components of the models, what they see as the object of study, how they view the nature of knowledge and their notions of developmental change mean that they each stand to make different and unique contributions to a more complete theory of development. We present an example from our work on how children learn to learn words that illustrates the complementary nature of connectionist and dynamic systems theories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-439
Number of pages6
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2003

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