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Literacy Effects on Cognitive Development

The cognitive effects of literacy have been debated since Plato, some claiming that writing extended memory, others, including Plato, arguing that it eroded memory. In the 17th and 18th centuries, writers such as Francis Bacon, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Auguste Comte took writing and the alphabet to be the hallmark of civilized thought and civilized society. But, it was only in the 20th century that writers including Walter Ong, Eric Havelock, Jack Goody, and Marshall McLuhan advanced more precise theories about writing, literacy, and cognitive and social change. Psychologists such as S. Scribner, M. Cole, D. R. Olson, C. Snow, and S. Heath were among the first to formulate and test more specific claims about the cognitive implications of literacy.

Literacy as Social Practice

One important tradition derived ...

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