The development of epistemological understanding

Deanna Kuhn, Richard Cheney, Michael Weinstock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

550 Scopus citations


We propose the coordination of the subjective and objective dimensions of knowing as the essence of what develops in the attainment of mature epistemological understanding. Initially, the objective dimension dominates, to the exclusion of subjectivity; subsequently, the subjective dimension assumes an ascendant position and the objective is abandoned, and, finally, the two are coordinated. This progression, we further postulate, tends to occur in a systematic order across different judgment domains (personal taste, aesthetic, value, and truth), with the orders the reverse of one another in the two major transitions that constitute this progression. These predictions are supported among a sample of seven groups of children, adolescents, and adults varying in age, education, and life experience. Subjectivity is most readily acknowledged in personal taste and aesthetic judgments and least readily in truth judgments. Once subjectivity is accepted and becomes dominant, objectivity is reintegrated in the reverse order, i.e., most readily with respect to truth judgments. Not predicted, however, was the finding that for a number of individuals, both transitions proved most difficult in the values domain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-328
Number of pages20
JournalCognitive Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Belief
  • Epistemology
  • Judgement
  • Knowing
  • Objectivity
  • Subjectivity
  • Truth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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