Chapter 6 - Cognitive Development in Infancy and Toddlerhood. Flashcards Preview

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Piaget’s Cognitive-Developmental Theory
Sensorimotor stage

Sensorimotor stage - Piaget’s first stage, spanning the first two years of life, during which infants and toddlers “think” with their eyes, ears, hands, and other sensorimotor equipment

He based his theory on his own three children

The first stage of Piaget's theory lasts from birth to approximately age two and is centered on the infant trying to make sense of the world. During the sensorimotor stage, an infant's knowledge of the world is limited to his or her sensory perceptions and motor activities. Behaviors are limited to simple motor responses caused by sensory stimuli. Children utilize skills and abilities they were born with (such as looking, sucking, grasping, and listening) to learn more about the environment.


Piaget’s Cognitive-Developmental Theory

Scheme - in Piaget’s theory, a specific structure, or organized way of making sense of the world, that changes with age
• In the sensorimotor stage, schemes are generally actions (sensory motor action patterns)
• Start ridged and become more flexible
• 2 ways schemes change: adaption and organization


Piaget’s Ideas about Cognitive Change


Adaptation - in Piaget’s theory, the process of building schemes through direct interaction with the environment
- Adaptation consists of assimilation (use current schemes to interpret the world) and accommodation (create new schemes or adapt the old ones after our old ones do not explain the environment completely)
- More assimilation when in a state of equilibrium, more accommodation when in a state of disequilibrium (cognitive discomfort)
- Because the times of greatest accommodation is the early ones sensory motor stage is the most complex period of development.


Piaget’s Ideas about Cognitive Change


Organization - in Piaget’s theory, the internal rearrangement and linking together or schemes so that they form a strongly interconnected cognitive system
- According to Piaget, we are naturally motivated to store information in well-organized ways
- We reach true equilibrium when our schemes become part of a larger network


Object Permanence

acording to Piaget, the development of object permanence is one of the most important accomplishments at the sensorimotor stage of development. Object permanence is a child's understanding that objects continue to exist even though they cannot be seen or heard.

Imagine a game of peek-a-boo, for example. A very young infant will believe that the other person or object has actually vanished and will act shocked or startled when the object reappears. Older infants who understand object permanence will realize that the person or object continues to exist even when unseen.


Piaget’s Cognitive-Developmental Theory:

The 6 Substages of
Sensorimotor Stage

The sensorimotor stage can be divided into six separate substages that are characterized by the development of a new skill.

Substage 1: reflexive schemes (birth – 1 month)
Substage 2: primary circular reactions (1-4 months)
Substage 3: secondary circular reactions (4-8 months)
Substage 4: coordination of secondary circular reactions (8-12 months)
Substage 5: tertiary circular reactions (12-18 months)
Substage 6: mental representation (18 months – 2 years)


Substage 1

Substage 1: reflexive schemes (birth – 1 month)

During this substage, the child understands the environment purely through inborn reflexes such as sucking and looking.


Substage 2

Substage 2: primary circular reactions (1-4 months)

Start of voluntary control
During this substage, infants can adjust their behaviour (simple motor habits) in response to the environment, and are beginning to learn to anticipate events. (limited)
This substage involves coordinating sensation and new schemas. For example, a child may such his or her thumb by accident and then later intentionally repeat the action. These actions are repeated because the infant finds them pleasurable. (motivated by basic needs)


Substage 3

Substage 3: secondary circular reactions (4-8 months)

During this stage, they may be able to imitate simple behaviours (that they performed themselves), but they can’t adapt flexibly and quickly enough to imitate novel behaviours
During this substage, the child becomes more focused on the world and begins to intentionally repeat an action in order to trigger a response in the environment. For example, a child will purposefully pick up a toy in order to put it in his or her mouth.


Substage 4

Substage 4: coordination of secondary circular reactions (8-12 months)

Now we see clear intentional behaviour no longer random, hit or miss.
Beginnings of object permanence as children look for hidden toys (object permanence), but they still make the A-not-B error
They can now can better anticipate events based on cues (putting on jacket) and try to influence them (wimpering).
During this substage, the child starts to show clearly intentional actions. The child may also combine schemas in order to achieve a desired effect. Children begin exploring the environment around them and will often imitate the observed behavior of others.


Substage 5

Substage 5: tertiary circular reactions (12-18 months)

Children in this substage no longer show the A-not-B error, though they do have difficulty with invisible displacements
Children begin a period of trial-and-error experimentation during the fifth substage. For example, a child may try out different sounds or actions as a way of getting attention from a caregiver. Or experiment twisting and turning a toy to get it to fit. Or using a stick to get something out of reach.
More flexable action patterns.
Better imitation of others
They start to show novel behaviors when exploring


Intentional or goal directed behavior

Coordinating schemes deliberately to solve a problem.

Seen in Substage 4: coordination of secondary circular reactions (8-12 months) of sensory motor stage in Piaget’s Cognitive-Developmental Theory


Means-end action sequences

Consequence of intentional or goal directed behavior. The foundation of all problem solving. Coordinating schemes deliberately to solve a problem.

Seen in Substage 4: coordination of secondary circular reactions (8-12 months) of sensory motor stage in Piaget’s Cognitive-Developmental Theory


A-not-B search error

Object permanence error when a baby will look for the hidden object in the place it was hidden several times before but not where they just saw it hidden.

No longer fooled in Substage 5: tertiary circular reactions (12-18 months)


invisible displacements

Advanced objet permanence skill of finding a toy that was moved when out of sight

It is possible when the baby is capable of mental representation in Substage 6: mental representation (18 months – 2 years)


Mental representations

Internal depictions of information that the mind can manipulate.
Two kinds:
1. Images
2. Concepts

Seen in Substage 6: mental representation (18 months – 2 years)


deferred imitation

Imitate behavior of models that are not present and or long after we observed it.

It is possible when the baby is capable of mental representation in Substage 6: mental representation (18 months – 2 years)


Substage 6

Substage 6: mental representation (18 months – 2 years)

Capable of inner experimentation
Can solve invisible displacement problems
Mental representations allow for deferred imitation and make-believe play
Children begin to develop symbols to represent events or objects in the world in the final sensorimotor substage. During this time, children begin to move towards understanding the world through mental operations rather than purely through actions.


inferring others’ intentions
solve problems by analogy

Toddlers show signs of inferring others’ intentions
- 14-month-olds are more likely to imitate intentional than accidental behaviours
- By 18 months, they can imitate actions an adult seemed to attempt to produce, unsuccessfully

By 10-12 months, infants can solve problems by analogy
- They can take a strategy from one problem and apply it to other relevant problems


violation-of-expectation method

Habituate babies to a physical event. Or show a baby an expected or unexpected event.
heightened attention the unexpected event suggests they are surprised and therefore aware
- maybe it just indicates a limited awareness and not a full blown conscious understanding
- Violation-of-expectation findings are often mixed
- When they aren’t, there is still controversy about how reasonable it is to interpret looking behaviours the way that core knowledge theorists do
- Investigators of brain development suggest that there’s little evidence for prewiring of complex cognitive functions in the brain


Evaluation of the Sensorimotor Stage

Mental Representation

Deferred imitation and Inferring intentions: deferred imitation at 6 weeks will copy an expression in a picture of an unfamiliar adults when they see them. 12m old will imitate an intentional activity more than an unintentional one.

Problem solving: by 10 – 12m babies can solve problems by analogy – apply the solution to one problem to another. (toy behind barriror, pull string) this indicates flexible representation.

Symbolic representation: words can be used to cue mental images of things not present (a symbolic capacity called displaced reference). They also seem two know that a picture is a symbol for the real thing during second year.


Some issues with Piaget’s account

Some issues with Piaget’s account
- Underestimation of infants
- Many cognitive changes in infancy are gradual and continuous, not abrupt and stagelike
- Change is often uneven, rather than all abilities changing at once

That all said, Piaget’s contribution to the field has been tremendous
- Some attainments occur when Piaget said they did, but other abilities seem to emerge earlier
- He founded the field of cognitive development, and drew literally thousands of researchers into
- He’s inspired a wealth of research on infant cognition
- His findings have influenced teaching and infant caregiving


Evaluation of the Sensorimotor Stage

objet permanence
imposable events

Other explanations for objet permanence: they need to predict where to look. (blanket put on top of toy, or hand places toy under blanket). A not B error might be a hard time rewriting rewarded motor circuits.

Searching in more then one location:
4-, 6-, and 8-month-old infants have been shown to look longer at impossible events than at possible events

4-5 m will look at where they expect the ball to reappear

Baillargeon found that 5-month-olds looked longer at the impossible than the possible event

6m old brain activity is showed different brain activity for impossible events


Cognitive attainments

Birth to 1m – secondary circular reactions
1m to 4m – awareness of objet permanence, objet solidarity, gravity, violation of expectations, deferred imitation
4m to 8m – objet properties, basic numeric knowledge, deferred imitation of novel actions
8m to 12m – the ability to find an object that is hidden by a cloth, ability to solve simple problems by analogy
12m to 18m - search in several locations, accurate a not b, deferred imitation of novel action over long delay and change of situations, rational imitation, inferring intentions
18m to 2y – deferred imitation of action that an adult tried to produce, make believe play, awareness of pictures and videos as reality


Core knowledge perspective

a perspective that states that infants are born with a set of innate knowledge systems, or core domains of thought, each of which permits a ready grasp of new, related information
- Physical knowlage (gravity, solidarity, permanence
- Linguistic knowage
- Psychological knowage (mental states, intentions, emotions, desires and beliefs)
- Numerical knowage (1 toy behind screen then 2 appear)

Less extreme view
Most researchers believe that babies are born with built in cognitive skills for making sense of experience.
Some believe that newborns already have a set of biases for attending to certain information and general-purpose learning procedures, like powerful techniques for analyzing complex perceptual information


Physical knowledge
(Core knowledge perspective)

Physical knowledge includes object permanence, object solidity, and gravity
- Violation-of-expectation studies suggest that infants have some grasp of this in the first few months of life (critics say this may just be perceptual preference)


Numerical knowledge
(Core knowledge perspective)

Numerical knowledge involves the ability to distinguish small quantities (up to 3)
- Wynn found evidence of the ability to subitize (rapid, accurate, and confident judgments of number performed for small numbers of items) in 5-month-olds
- Addition and subtraction
- Tell the difference between large numbers of things


Linguistic knowledge
(Core knowledge perspective)

Linguistic knowledge involves basic understanding of the structure of language


Psychological knowledge
(Core knowledge perspective)

Psychological knowledge involves the understanding of mental states, such as intentions, emotions, desires, and beliefs



Information-processing researchers also (like piaget) see children as active participants in their own development
These theorists focus on many aspects of thinking, such as attention, memory, categorization skills, and problem-solving
- They tend to look at components of cognition, rather than sharing Piaget’s holistic view