|Born:||1929 - Newark, New Jersey|
|Current:||Professor of psychology, Harvard University|
|Education:||Ph.D. Yale University|
|Achievements:||Pioneered research on the influence of temperament on children's behavior; Recipient of distinguished scientist awards from the American Psychological Association and the Society for Research in Child Development|
During the early stages of his career, Jerome Kagan's research was guided by a strong belief in the influence of environmental factors on human development. When he found little support for this belief after a year of fieldwork in a small Indian village in northwest Guatemala, he turned his focus to the study of biological factors in development.
For the next dozen years Kagan concentrated on the biological aspects of development and especially on children's vulnerability to fear and apprehension. He noted that the environments to which children are exposed during the first two years of life have an effect on their development of memory, symbolism, a moral sense, and self consciousness.
Building on this research, Kagan turned to the examination of temperament that has been a large part of his work to this day. For example, he has found that infants are born with a temperamental disposition to be either inhibited or uninhibited, which can be measured in the brain and observed in the way they react to unfamiliar situations and persons. Inhibited children are shy, timid, and cautious, while uninhibited children are bold, social, and outgoing. What is particularly telling about these temperamental characteristics is that they are more than mere personality quirks or curiosities; they can have influences on behavior, attitudes, and even material success that extend well into later life-depending on the ways in which they interact with the individual's environment.
Kagan's research agenda has involved identifying and examining characteristics that appear to influence individuals' development. While temperament is the most important characteristic, he and his colleagues have isolated several others, including birth order, identification with an influential family member, being valued by one's parents, and one's personal history of success or failure.
Kagan's work has implications for social issues such as poverty and crime. His insight into the complex interplay of biological and environmental factors in each person's development has underlined the complexity of both the problems that society must deal with and the solutions that are likely to work in dealing with them.
Kagan's influence has extended beyond developmental studies to the fields of sociology, education, child psychology, politics, and social psychology.