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Chapter 4 - Theories of Cognitive Development

  1. Developmental theories provide a framework for understanding important phenomena

  2. Developmental theories raise crucial questions about human nature

  3. Developmental theories lead to a better understanding of children

Piaget’s Theory

  • This theory posits that cognitive development involves a sequence of 4 stages - the sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational stages - that are constructed through the processes of assimilation, accomodation, and equilibration.

View of Children’s Nature

  • Piaget’s fundamental assumption about children was that they are mentally active from the second they are born and their mental and physical activity contributes greatly to their development.

  • His approach is labeled constructivist because it is based on children constructing knowledge in response to their experiences.

  • He thinks 3 of the most important of children’s constructive processes are generating hypotheses, performing experiments, and drawing conclusions from the experiments.

  • Piaget’s third assumption is that children are intriniscally motivated to learn and do not need rewards to do so.

Nature and Nurture

  • Piaget believed nature and nurture both produce cognitive development.

Sources of Continuity

  • Piaget thought development to have continuities and discontinuities.

    • With continuity consisting of 3 processes: assimilation, accomodating, and equilibration.

  • Assimilation - the process by which people translate incoming info into a form that fits concepts they already understand.

    • Ex. a child saw a man who was bald on top of his head and had long frizzy hair on the sides. he shouted “clown!” because the man looked similar enough to a clown that he assimilated him to his clown concept.

  • Accomodating - the process by which people adapt current knowledge structures in response to new experiences.

    • Ex. the child’s father explained that the man was not wearing a funny costume and making people laugh, so even though his hair looked like a clown’s, he was not one.

  • Equilibration - the process by which people balance assimilation and accomodating to create stable understanding.

Sources of Discontinuity

Piaget’s stage theroy:

  1. Qualitative change

    • Children of different ages think in qualitatively different ways.

  2. Broad applicability

    • The type of thinking of each stage influences children’s thinking across various topics and contexts.

  3. Brief transitions

    • Before entering a new stage, children pass through a brief transitional period where they fluctuate from the old type of thinking and the new one.

  4. Invariant sequence

    • Everyone progresses through the stages in order without skips.

Piaget’s four stages of cognitive development:

  1. Sensorimotor stage (0-2 years)

    • Infant’s intelligence is expressed through sensory and motor abilities.

    • Infant’s life is limited to the present.

    • Infants develop object permanence late in the first year, but tend to reach for a hidden object where it was last found , instead of where it was hidden (A-not-B error).

    • In the last half-year, children can repeat other people’s behaviour a significant time after it originally occurred (deffered imitation).

  2. Preoperational stage (2-7 years)

    • Toddlers and preschoolers can represent their experiences in language and mental imagery.

    • They can remember information for longer periods of time.

    • Piaget’s theory says children cannot consider multiple dimensions simultaneously (mental operations).

    • Children now have heightened symbolic capabilities through symbolic representation (using one object to stand for another).

    • Ego-centrism - the tendency to perceive the world soley from one’s own point of view) & difficulty in taking other people’s spatial perspectives and in communication.

    • Centration - the tendency to focus on a single, perpetually striking feature of an object or event.

    • Conservation concept - the idea that merely changing the appearance of objects does not necessarily change the object’s other key properties.

      • 4-5 year olds do not understand the conservation concept in liquid & solid quantities, and in numeric values because they can’t process multiple dimensions at once.

      • For example, they think taller glasses contain more liquid, longer, thinner clay have more substance, and spread out dots are more in numbers.

  3. Concrete operational stage (7-12 years)

    • Children can reason logically and can do mental operations.

    • Children cannot think in purely abstract terms or generate systematic scientific experiments to test beliefs.

  4. Formal operational stage (12+ years)

    • Adolescents and adults can think deeply about concrete events, abstractions, and hypothetical situations.

    • They can perform scientific experiments and draw appropriate conclusions even when they differ from prior beliefs.

    • Piaget believed that not all adolescents or adults reach this stage, and those who do greatly expand their intellectual universe.

      • They can think about alternative ways the world could be and think deeply about truth, justice, and morality.

Piaget’s Legacy

Weaknesses:

  1. Piaget’s theory is vague about the mechanisms that give rise to children’s thinking and produce cognitive growth.

  2. Infants and young children are more cognitively comptent than Piaget recognized.

  3. Piaget’s theory understates the contribution of the social world to cognitive development.

  4. The stage model depicts children’s thinking as being more consistent than it is.

  • Despite its weaknesses, Piaget’s theory remains one of the major intellectual accomplishments of the past century.

Information-Processing Theories

  • Example:

SCENE: DAUGHTER AND FATHER IN THEIR YARD. A PLAYMATE RIDES IN ON A BIKE.

Child: Daddy, would you unlock the basement door? Father: Why? Child: ’Cause I want to ride my bike. Father: Your bike is in the garage. Child: But my socks are in the dryer.

thought model:

Top goal: I want to ride my bike.

Bias: I need shoes to ride comfortably.

Fact: I’m barefoot.

Subgoal 1: Get my sneakers.

Fact: The sneakers are in the yard.

Fact: They’re uncomfortable on bare feet.

Subgoal 2: Get my socks.

Fact: The sock drawer was empty this morning.

Inference: The socks probably are in the dryer.

Subgoal 3: Get them from the dryer.

Fact: The dryer is in the basement.

Subgoal 4: Go to the basement.

Fact: It’s quicker to go through the yard entrance.

Fact: The yard entrance is always locked.

Subgoal 5: Unlock the door to the basement.

Fact: Daddies have the keys to everything.

Subgoal 6: Ask Daddy to unlock the door.

  • This analysis illustrates two notable characteristics of information-processing theories (a class of theories that focus on the structure of the cognitive system and the mental activities used to deploy attention and memory to solve problems), one being the precise specification of the complex process of children’s thinking.

  • To help specify processes, Klahr (the father in the scenario and a information processing theorist) used task analysis (the research technique of specifying the goals, obstacles to their realization and potential solution strategies involved in problem solving)

    • Task analysis helps researchers understand and predict children’s behaviour, and test precise hypotheses.

    • It also allows them to formulate a computer simulation (a type of mathematical model that expresses ideas about mental processes in precise ways).

  • Information-processing analyses identify what the mental operations are in scenarios, the order in which they are exectued, and how increasing speed and accuracy of mental operations lead to cognitive growth.

View of Children’s Nature

The Child as a Limited-Capacity Processing System

  • Cognitive development arises from children gradually passing their limitations.

  • Through learning and maturation of brain structures, children expand the amounts of information they can process at one time, process information faster, and acquire new strategies and knowledge.

The Child as Problem Solver

  • Problem solving involve strategies for overcoming obstacles and attaining goals.

  • Children’s cognitive flexibility helps them attain goals, and surpass obstacles put in their route by parents, physical environment, and their own lack of knowledge.

Central Development Issues

The Development of Memory

Working memory - memory system that involves actively attending to, maintaining, and processing info

  • Ex. if a child was asked to read a story and was told they would be asked questions about it later, the child would use working memory processes to maintain info from the story, draw inferences, retrieve prior knowledge, and combine info the construct a reasonable answer.

  • Working memory is the subset of that knowledge attended to at a given time.

Long-term memory - information retained on an enduring basis.

  • It includes factual, conceptual and procedural knowledge, attitudes, and so on.

  • It is the totality of one’s knowledge.

Executive functioning

  • Executive functions control behaviour and thought processes.

  • 3 key executive functions are inhibition, (resisting temptation) enhancement of working memory, (through use of strategies like only attending to the most important info) & cognitive flexibility (imagining someone else’s perspective in an argument despite it being different from one’s own).

  • The quality of exectutive functioning predicts later outcomes like high school academic achievement, college enrollment, adult income, and occupational prestige.

Explanations of memory development

  • basic processes (the simplest and most frequently used mental activities).

    • Associating events with one another

    • Recognizing objects

    • Recalling facts and procedures

    • Generalizing from one instance to another

  • Encoding

    • Encoding is the representation in memory of specific features of objects and events.

    • People encode information that draws their attention, but they do not encode a great deal.

    • If information is not encoded, it is not remembered.

    • Like improved encoding, improved speed of processing plays a key role in the development of memory, problem solving and learning.

      • Faster speed of processing is due to myelination and increased connectivity among brain regions.

  • Strategies

    • Children use lots of broadly useful memory strategies between ages 5-8, including rehearsal, which is the process of repeating information multiple times to aid memory of it.

    • Another is selective attention, which is the process of intentionally focusing on the information that is most relevant to the current goal.

  • Content knowledge

    • With age and experience, knowledge about everything increases.

    • This makes it easier to recall new material and integrate new material with existing understanding.

    • When children know more than adults about a topic, they remember more new information about the topic than adults.

    • Prior content knowledge improved memory through improving coding and by providing useful associations.

The Development of Problem Solving

  • Overlapping waves theory - an information-processing apprach that emphasizes the variability of children’s thinking.

    • Children use a variety of approaches to solve problems.

    • Regarding the conservation-of-number problem, it is shown that children use at least 3 different strategies to reach a conclusion.

    • With age and experience, the strategies that produce more successful performances become more prevalent & new strategies are generated. If they are more useful, they are used more.

    • This theory is shown to be accurate in various contexts including arithmetic, time-telling, reading, spelling, scientific experimentation, biological understanding, tool use, and recall from memory.

    • Children discover new more effective strategies and learn to execute them all more efficiently, and choose strategies that are more appropriate to the particular problem and situation.

  • Planning

    • Information planning is difficult for children because it requires inhibiting the desire to solve the problem immediately instead of leaping in with optimism, which kids have an abundance of.

    • Over time, with the maturation of the prefrontal cortex, the frequency and quality of planning increases, which improves problem solving skills.

Core-Knowledge Theories

  • The percentage of children who lie about transgression steadily increases from age 2 to age 7, possibly because older children are more imaginative in creating realistic cover-ups.

  • Deception like this illustrates 2 characteristic features of research inspired by core-knowledge theories (approaches that view children as having innate knowledge regarding special evolutionary importance & domain-specific learning mechanisms for getting more information in these domains)

    • Research focuses on knowledge that has been important through human evolutions, like understanding and manipulating other people’s thinking but also recognizing people’s faces, learning languages, find way through space, understanding causes and effects, and so on.

    • Deception research also reflects that infants think in a more advanced way than Piaget sugessted to be possible.

      • Ex. if preschoolers were completely egocentric, they wouldn’t feel the need to lie, but they do, so they must understand other minds to a degree.

    View of Children’s Nature

    • The core-knowledge perspective on children’s nature resembles that of Piagetian and information-processing theories as they depict children as active learners.

    • However, they differ dramatically as they think children enter the world equipped with specialized learning mechanisms along with general learning abilities that allow them to quickly and effortlessly acquire information of evolutionary importance. Piagetian and information-processing theorists only think children enter the world with general learning abilities, and increase their understanding of all types of content with these abilities.

      • The central metaphors in Piagetian and information-processing theories are the child as scientist and the child as general-purpose problem solver. The central metaphor in the core-knowledge theories is the child is a well-adapted product of evolution.

    • Domain-specific understandings allow children to learn quickly about them and other areas of evoluntionary importance.

      • Different specialized mechanisms produce learning about faces, language, living things, and other important domains.

Central Developmental Issue: Nativism Versus Constructivism

Nativism

  • Nativism - the theory that infants have substantial innate knowledge of evolutionarily important domains.

  • Elizabeth Spelke hypothesized that infants begin life with 4 core-knowledge systems, each with its own principles.

    • One represents inanimate objects and their mechanical interactions.

    • The second represents minds of people and other animals capable of goal-directed actions.

    • The third represents numbers.

    • The fourth represents spatial layouts and geometric relations.

  • Language is another domain, sometimes labeled the language acquisition device.

    • Theorists hypothesize this specialized learning mechanism lets children rapidly master the grammatical rules in human languages.

  • The university of acquisitions without apparent effort and instruction is characteristic of all the domains.

Constructivism

  • Constructivism - the theory that infants build increasingly advanced understanding by combining rudimentary innate knowledge with subsequent experiences.

  • This theory proposed that young children actively organize their understanding of important domains into informal theories.

  • These theories share 3 important characteristics with formal scientific ones.

    1. They explain many phenomena in terms of few principles (ex. animals want food and water and that underlies many behaviours).

    2. They identify fundamental units for dividing relevant objects & events into basic categories (ex. all objects are divided into peopoole, animals, and nonliving things).

    3. They explain events in terms of unobservable causes (preschoolers know vital activities of animals are because of internal processes, not external ones).

  • Core-knowledge constructivists emphasize that children’s initial simple theories grow considerably more complex with age and experience.

Sociocultural Theories

  • Sociocultural theories - approaches that emphasize that other people and the surrounding culture contribute greatly to children’s development.

  • Sociocultural theorists emphasize that much of cognitive development takes place through interactions between children and other people who want to help the children acquire the skills, knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes valued by their culture.

  • Guided participation - individuals organize activities in ways that allow less knowledgeable people to learn.

    • This often occurs in situations where the explciit purpose is to achieve a practical goal, and learning more general skills occurs as a by-product of the activity.

  • Social scaffolding - a process through which adults and others with greater expertise organize the physical and social environment to help children learn.

    • For this to work, a task that is beyond the child’s current level but can be accomplished with help must be chosen with the goal of the task and how to execute explained.

  • Cultural tools like symbol systems, manufactured objects, skills, values and so on influence our thinking and without these guided participation and social scaffolding proves to be difficult in situations like assembling a toy (can’t communicate, do not have objects to assemble…).

View of Children’s Nature: Vygotsky’s Theory

  • Let Vygotsky portrayed children as social learners, interwined with other people who help them gain skills and understanding. He viewed children as intent on participating in activities that are prevalent in the culture in which they live in. He also viewed gradual continuous changes instead of abrupt qualitatative changes. These views gave rise to the central metaphor of sociocultural theories.

  • Vygotsky described 3 phases in the growth of children’s ablity to regulate behaviour.

    1. Children’s behaviour is controlled by other people’s statements.

    2. Then it’s controlled by their own private speech (when they tell themselves what to do out loud).

    3. Behaviour is controlled by internalized private speech (thought).

Children as Teachers and Learners

  • Michael Tomasello proposed that humans have two unique characteristics that are crucial to our ability to create complex cultures.

    1. Inclination to teach others

    2. Inclination to attend to and learn from such teaching

  • Adults communicate facts, skills, values, and traditions to young, which makes culture possible.

    • The inclination to teach emerges very early, even at 1 years old.

Children as Products of Their Culture

  • Sociocultural theorists believe many of the processes that produce development are the same in all societies, but the content varies and shape thinking accordingly.

Central Development Issues

  • Sociocultural theorists believe the foundation of human cognitive development is our ability to establish intersubjectivity - the mutual understanding that people share during communication.

  • Joint attention - a process in which social partners intentionally focus on a common referrent in the external environment - is at the heart of intersubectivity.

    • It greatly increases children’s ability to learn from other, enables to infants to evaluate the competence of other people, and to use those evaluations to decide whom to imitate.

  • Intersubjectivity continues to develop throughout life as children become better at taking the perspectives of other people as well as teaching and learning from others.

Dynamic-Systems Theories

  • Dynamic-systems theories are a class of theories that focus on how change occurs over time in complex systems.

  • Through the dynamic-systems perspective, detailed analyses of the development of infants’ actions have given us impressive insights into how cognitive development occurs.

  • Dynamic-systems theories depict development as a process of constant change.

  • Piaget hypothesized development consists of stable stages with brief transition periods, but dyanmic-systems theories propose thought and action change from moment to moment in response to the current situation, immediate past history, and longer-term history in similar situations.

  • Dyanamic-systems theories also depict each child as a well-integrated system with many subsystems (perception, action, attention ,memory, language, social interaction…) that work together to determine behaviour.

View of Children’s Nature

Motivators of Development

  • Dynamic-systems theories emphasize that from infancy onward, children are internally motivated to learn about the world around them and to explore and expand their own capabilities.

  • Like sociocultural approaches, dynamic-systems theories also emphasize infant’s interest in the social world as a crucial motivator of development.

    • Observing other people, imitating their actions, and attracting their attention are all potent motivators of development.

The Centrality of Action

  • Dynamic-systems theories emphasize that actions contribute to development through life, not just in infancy.

  • Actions influence categorization, vocabulary acquisition, and generalization.

Central Development Issues

Self-Organization

  • Dynamic-systems theories view development as a process of self-organization that involves integrating attention, memory, emotions, and action to adapt to a continuously changing environment.

  • This is sometimes called soft assembly because the organization changes from moment to moment and situation to situation and aren’t governed by rigid stages/rules.

  • The dynamic-systems perspective suggests that the infant’s attention influences their object-permanence performance as well.

Mechanism of Change

  • Dynamic-systems theories propose that changes occur through mechanisms of variation and selection that are similar to those that produce biological evolution.

  • Variation refers to the use of different behaviours to pursue the same goal. Selection involves more frequent choice of behaviours that are effective in meeting goals and less frequent use of less effective behaviours.

  • Selection among alternative approaches reflects 3 influences:

    1. Relative success of each approach.

    2. Efficiency

    3. Novelty

D

Chapter 4 - Theories of Cognitive Development

  1. Developmental theories provide a framework for understanding important phenomena

  2. Developmental theories raise crucial questions about human nature

  3. Developmental theories lead to a better understanding of children

Piaget’s Theory

  • This theory posits that cognitive development involves a sequence of 4 stages - the sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational stages - that are constructed through the processes of assimilation, accomodation, and equilibration.

View of Children’s Nature

  • Piaget’s fundamental assumption about children was that they are mentally active from the second they are born and their mental and physical activity contributes greatly to their development.

  • His approach is labeled constructivist because it is based on children constructing knowledge in response to their experiences.

  • He thinks 3 of the most important of children’s constructive processes are generating hypotheses, performing experiments, and drawing conclusions from the experiments.

  • Piaget’s third assumption is that children are intriniscally motivated to learn and do not need rewards to do so.

Nature and Nurture

  • Piaget believed nature and nurture both produce cognitive development.

Sources of Continuity

  • Piaget thought development to have continuities and discontinuities.

    • With continuity consisting of 3 processes: assimilation, accomodating, and equilibration.

  • Assimilation - the process by which people translate incoming info into a form that fits concepts they already understand.

    • Ex. a child saw a man who was bald on top of his head and had long frizzy hair on the sides. he shouted “clown!” because the man looked similar enough to a clown that he assimilated him to his clown concept.

  • Accomodating - the process by which people adapt current knowledge structures in response to new experiences.

    • Ex. the child’s father explained that the man was not wearing a funny costume and making people laugh, so even though his hair looked like a clown’s, he was not one.

  • Equilibration - the process by which people balance assimilation and accomodating to create stable understanding.

Sources of Discontinuity

Piaget’s stage theroy:

  1. Qualitative change

    • Children of different ages think in qualitatively different ways.

  2. Broad applicability

    • The type of thinking of each stage influences children’s thinking across various topics and contexts.

  3. Brief transitions

    • Before entering a new stage, children pass through a brief transitional period where they fluctuate from the old type of thinking and the new one.

  4. Invariant sequence

    • Everyone progresses through the stages in order without skips.

Piaget’s four stages of cognitive development:

  1. Sensorimotor stage (0-2 years)

    • Infant’s intelligence is expressed through sensory and motor abilities.

    • Infant’s life is limited to the present.

    • Infants develop object permanence late in the first year, but tend to reach for a hidden object where it was last found , instead of where it was hidden (A-not-B error).

    • In the last half-year, children can repeat other people’s behaviour a significant time after it originally occurred (deffered imitation).

  2. Preoperational stage (2-7 years)

    • Toddlers and preschoolers can represent their experiences in language and mental imagery.

    • They can remember information for longer periods of time.

    • Piaget’s theory says children cannot consider multiple dimensions simultaneously (mental operations).

    • Children now have heightened symbolic capabilities through symbolic representation (using one object to stand for another).

    • Ego-centrism - the tendency to perceive the world soley from one’s own point of view) & difficulty in taking other people’s spatial perspectives and in communication.

    • Centration - the tendency to focus on a single, perpetually striking feature of an object or event.

    • Conservation concept - the idea that merely changing the appearance of objects does not necessarily change the object’s other key properties.

      • 4-5 year olds do not understand the conservation concept in liquid & solid quantities, and in numeric values because they can’t process multiple dimensions at once.

      • For example, they think taller glasses contain more liquid, longer, thinner clay have more substance, and spread out dots are more in numbers.

  3. Concrete operational stage (7-12 years)

    • Children can reason logically and can do mental operations.

    • Children cannot think in purely abstract terms or generate systematic scientific experiments to test beliefs.

  4. Formal operational stage (12+ years)

    • Adolescents and adults can think deeply about concrete events, abstractions, and hypothetical situations.

    • They can perform scientific experiments and draw appropriate conclusions even when they differ from prior beliefs.

    • Piaget believed that not all adolescents or adults reach this stage, and those who do greatly expand their intellectual universe.

      • They can think about alternative ways the world could be and think deeply about truth, justice, and morality.

Piaget’s Legacy

Weaknesses:

  1. Piaget’s theory is vague about the mechanisms that give rise to children’s thinking and produce cognitive growth.

  2. Infants and young children are more cognitively comptent than Piaget recognized.

  3. Piaget’s theory understates the contribution of the social world to cognitive development.

  4. The stage model depicts children’s thinking as being more consistent than it is.

  • Despite its weaknesses, Piaget’s theory remains one of the major intellectual accomplishments of the past century.

Information-Processing Theories

  • Example:

SCENE: DAUGHTER AND FATHER IN THEIR YARD. A PLAYMATE RIDES IN ON A BIKE.

Child: Daddy, would you unlock the basement door? Father: Why? Child: ’Cause I want to ride my bike. Father: Your bike is in the garage. Child: But my socks are in the dryer.

thought model:

Top goal: I want to ride my bike.

Bias: I need shoes to ride comfortably.

Fact: I’m barefoot.

Subgoal 1: Get my sneakers.

Fact: The sneakers are in the yard.

Fact: They’re uncomfortable on bare feet.

Subgoal 2: Get my socks.

Fact: The sock drawer was empty this morning.

Inference: The socks probably are in the dryer.

Subgoal 3: Get them from the dryer.

Fact: The dryer is in the basement.

Subgoal 4: Go to the basement.

Fact: It’s quicker to go through the yard entrance.

Fact: The yard entrance is always locked.

Subgoal 5: Unlock the door to the basement.

Fact: Daddies have the keys to everything.

Subgoal 6: Ask Daddy to unlock the door.

  • This analysis illustrates two notable characteristics of information-processing theories (a class of theories that focus on the structure of the cognitive system and the mental activities used to deploy attention and memory to solve problems), one being the precise specification of the complex process of children’s thinking.

  • To help specify processes, Klahr (the father in the scenario and a information processing theorist) used task analysis (the research technique of specifying the goals, obstacles to their realization and potential solution strategies involved in problem solving)

    • Task analysis helps researchers understand and predict children’s behaviour, and test precise hypotheses.

    • It also allows them to formulate a computer simulation (a type of mathematical model that expresses ideas about mental processes in precise ways).

  • Information-processing analyses identify what the mental operations are in scenarios, the order in which they are exectued, and how increasing speed and accuracy of mental operations lead to cognitive growth.

View of Children’s Nature

The Child as a Limited-Capacity Processing System

  • Cognitive development arises from children gradually passing their limitations.

  • Through learning and maturation of brain structures, children expand the amounts of information they can process at one time, process information faster, and acquire new strategies and knowledge.

The Child as Problem Solver

  • Problem solving involve strategies for overcoming obstacles and attaining goals.

  • Children’s cognitive flexibility helps them attain goals, and surpass obstacles put in their route by parents, physical environment, and their own lack of knowledge.

Central Development Issues

The Development of Memory

Working memory - memory system that involves actively attending to, maintaining, and processing info

  • Ex. if a child was asked to read a story and was told they would be asked questions about it later, the child would use working memory processes to maintain info from the story, draw inferences, retrieve prior knowledge, and combine info the construct a reasonable answer.

  • Working memory is the subset of that knowledge attended to at a given time.

Long-term memory - information retained on an enduring basis.

  • It includes factual, conceptual and procedural knowledge, attitudes, and so on.

  • It is the totality of one’s knowledge.

Executive functioning

  • Executive functions control behaviour and thought processes.

  • 3 key executive functions are inhibition, (resisting temptation) enhancement of working memory, (through use of strategies like only attending to the most important info) & cognitive flexibility (imagining someone else’s perspective in an argument despite it being different from one’s own).

  • The quality of exectutive functioning predicts later outcomes like high school academic achievement, college enrollment, adult income, and occupational prestige.

Explanations of memory development

  • basic processes (the simplest and most frequently used mental activities).

    • Associating events with one another

    • Recognizing objects

    • Recalling facts and procedures

    • Generalizing from one instance to another

  • Encoding

    • Encoding is the representation in memory of specific features of objects and events.

    • People encode information that draws their attention, but they do not encode a great deal.

    • If information is not encoded, it is not remembered.

    • Like improved encoding, improved speed of processing plays a key role in the development of memory, problem solving and learning.

      • Faster speed of processing is due to myelination and increased connectivity among brain regions.

  • Strategies

    • Children use lots of broadly useful memory strategies between ages 5-8, including rehearsal, which is the process of repeating information multiple times to aid memory of it.

    • Another is selective attention, which is the process of intentionally focusing on the information that is most relevant to the current goal.

  • Content knowledge

    • With age and experience, knowledge about everything increases.

    • This makes it easier to recall new material and integrate new material with existing understanding.

    • When children know more than adults about a topic, they remember more new information about the topic than adults.

    • Prior content knowledge improved memory through improving coding and by providing useful associations.

The Development of Problem Solving

  • Overlapping waves theory - an information-processing apprach that emphasizes the variability of children’s thinking.

    • Children use a variety of approaches to solve problems.

    • Regarding the conservation-of-number problem, it is shown that children use at least 3 different strategies to reach a conclusion.

    • With age and experience, the strategies that produce more successful performances become more prevalent & new strategies are generated. If they are more useful, they are used more.

    • This theory is shown to be accurate in various contexts including arithmetic, time-telling, reading, spelling, scientific experimentation, biological understanding, tool use, and recall from memory.

    • Children discover new more effective strategies and learn to execute them all more efficiently, and choose strategies that are more appropriate to the particular problem and situation.

  • Planning

    • Information planning is difficult for children because it requires inhibiting the desire to solve the problem immediately instead of leaping in with optimism, which kids have an abundance of.

    • Over time, with the maturation of the prefrontal cortex, the frequency and quality of planning increases, which improves problem solving skills.

Core-Knowledge Theories

  • The percentage of children who lie about transgression steadily increases from age 2 to age 7, possibly because older children are more imaginative in creating realistic cover-ups.

  • Deception like this illustrates 2 characteristic features of research inspired by core-knowledge theories (approaches that view children as having innate knowledge regarding special evolutionary importance & domain-specific learning mechanisms for getting more information in these domains)

    • Research focuses on knowledge that has been important through human evolutions, like understanding and manipulating other people’s thinking but also recognizing people’s faces, learning languages, find way through space, understanding causes and effects, and so on.

    • Deception research also reflects that infants think in a more advanced way than Piaget sugessted to be possible.

      • Ex. if preschoolers were completely egocentric, they wouldn’t feel the need to lie, but they do, so they must understand other minds to a degree.

    View of Children’s Nature

    • The core-knowledge perspective on children’s nature resembles that of Piagetian and information-processing theories as they depict children as active learners.

    • However, they differ dramatically as they think children enter the world equipped with specialized learning mechanisms along with general learning abilities that allow them to quickly and effortlessly acquire information of evolutionary importance. Piagetian and information-processing theorists only think children enter the world with general learning abilities, and increase their understanding of all types of content with these abilities.

      • The central metaphors in Piagetian and information-processing theories are the child as scientist and the child as general-purpose problem solver. The central metaphor in the core-knowledge theories is the child is a well-adapted product of evolution.

    • Domain-specific understandings allow children to learn quickly about them and other areas of evoluntionary importance.

      • Different specialized mechanisms produce learning about faces, language, living things, and other important domains.

Central Developmental Issue: Nativism Versus Constructivism

Nativism

  • Nativism - the theory that infants have substantial innate knowledge of evolutionarily important domains.

  • Elizabeth Spelke hypothesized that infants begin life with 4 core-knowledge systems, each with its own principles.

    • One represents inanimate objects and their mechanical interactions.

    • The second represents minds of people and other animals capable of goal-directed actions.

    • The third represents numbers.

    • The fourth represents spatial layouts and geometric relations.

  • Language is another domain, sometimes labeled the language acquisition device.

    • Theorists hypothesize this specialized learning mechanism lets children rapidly master the grammatical rules in human languages.

  • The university of acquisitions without apparent effort and instruction is characteristic of all the domains.

Constructivism

  • Constructivism - the theory that infants build increasingly advanced understanding by combining rudimentary innate knowledge with subsequent experiences.

  • This theory proposed that young children actively organize their understanding of important domains into informal theories.

  • These theories share 3 important characteristics with formal scientific ones.

    1. They explain many phenomena in terms of few principles (ex. animals want food and water and that underlies many behaviours).

    2. They identify fundamental units for dividing relevant objects & events into basic categories (ex. all objects are divided into peopoole, animals, and nonliving things).

    3. They explain events in terms of unobservable causes (preschoolers know vital activities of animals are because of internal processes, not external ones).

  • Core-knowledge constructivists emphasize that children’s initial simple theories grow considerably more complex with age and experience.

Sociocultural Theories

  • Sociocultural theories - approaches that emphasize that other people and the surrounding culture contribute greatly to children’s development.

  • Sociocultural theorists emphasize that much of cognitive development takes place through interactions between children and other people who want to help the children acquire the skills, knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes valued by their culture.

  • Guided participation - individuals organize activities in ways that allow less knowledgeable people to learn.

    • This often occurs in situations where the explciit purpose is to achieve a practical goal, and learning more general skills occurs as a by-product of the activity.

  • Social scaffolding - a process through which adults and others with greater expertise organize the physical and social environment to help children learn.

    • For this to work, a task that is beyond the child’s current level but can be accomplished with help must be chosen with the goal of the task and how to execute explained.

  • Cultural tools like symbol systems, manufactured objects, skills, values and so on influence our thinking and without these guided participation and social scaffolding proves to be difficult in situations like assembling a toy (can’t communicate, do not have objects to assemble…).

View of Children’s Nature: Vygotsky’s Theory

  • Let Vygotsky portrayed children as social learners, interwined with other people who help them gain skills and understanding. He viewed children as intent on participating in activities that are prevalent in the culture in which they live in. He also viewed gradual continuous changes instead of abrupt qualitatative changes. These views gave rise to the central metaphor of sociocultural theories.

  • Vygotsky described 3 phases in the growth of children’s ablity to regulate behaviour.

    1. Children’s behaviour is controlled by other people’s statements.

    2. Then it’s controlled by their own private speech (when they tell themselves what to do out loud).

    3. Behaviour is controlled by internalized private speech (thought).

Children as Teachers and Learners

  • Michael Tomasello proposed that humans have two unique characteristics that are crucial to our ability to create complex cultures.

    1. Inclination to teach others

    2. Inclination to attend to and learn from such teaching

  • Adults communicate facts, skills, values, and traditions to young, which makes culture possible.

    • The inclination to teach emerges very early, even at 1 years old.

Children as Products of Their Culture

  • Sociocultural theorists believe many of the processes that produce development are the same in all societies, but the content varies and shape thinking accordingly.

Central Development Issues

  • Sociocultural theorists believe the foundation of human cognitive development is our ability to establish intersubjectivity - the mutual understanding that people share during communication.

  • Joint attention - a process in which social partners intentionally focus on a common referrent in the external environment - is at the heart of intersubectivity.

    • It greatly increases children’s ability to learn from other, enables to infants to evaluate the competence of other people, and to use those evaluations to decide whom to imitate.

  • Intersubjectivity continues to develop throughout life as children become better at taking the perspectives of other people as well as teaching and learning from others.

Dynamic-Systems Theories

  • Dynamic-systems theories are a class of theories that focus on how change occurs over time in complex systems.

  • Through the dynamic-systems perspective, detailed analyses of the development of infants’ actions have given us impressive insights into how cognitive development occurs.

  • Dynamic-systems theories depict development as a process of constant change.

  • Piaget hypothesized development consists of stable stages with brief transition periods, but dyanmic-systems theories propose thought and action change from moment to moment in response to the current situation, immediate past history, and longer-term history in similar situations.

  • Dyanamic-systems theories also depict each child as a well-integrated system with many subsystems (perception, action, attention ,memory, language, social interaction…) that work together to determine behaviour.

View of Children’s Nature

Motivators of Development

  • Dynamic-systems theories emphasize that from infancy onward, children are internally motivated to learn about the world around them and to explore and expand their own capabilities.

  • Like sociocultural approaches, dynamic-systems theories also emphasize infant’s interest in the social world as a crucial motivator of development.

    • Observing other people, imitating their actions, and attracting their attention are all potent motivators of development.

The Centrality of Action

  • Dynamic-systems theories emphasize that actions contribute to development through life, not just in infancy.

  • Actions influence categorization, vocabulary acquisition, and generalization.

Central Development Issues

Self-Organization

  • Dynamic-systems theories view development as a process of self-organization that involves integrating attention, memory, emotions, and action to adapt to a continuously changing environment.

  • This is sometimes called soft assembly because the organization changes from moment to moment and situation to situation and aren’t governed by rigid stages/rules.

  • The dynamic-systems perspective suggests that the infant’s attention influences their object-permanence performance as well.

Mechanism of Change

  • Dynamic-systems theories propose that changes occur through mechanisms of variation and selection that are similar to those that produce biological evolution.

  • Variation refers to the use of different behaviours to pursue the same goal. Selection involves more frequent choice of behaviours that are effective in meeting goals and less frequent use of less effective behaviours.

  • Selection among alternative approaches reflects 3 influences:

    1. Relative success of each approach.

    2. Efficiency

    3. Novelty