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


We hold information in 3 areas for processing
(information processing)

Sensory register
Short term memory
long term memory


Mental strategies

Mental strategies - in information processing, procedures that operate on and transform information, thereby increasing the efficiency and flexibility of thinking and the chances that information will be retained

Mental strategies are often used to maintain information in working memory, to transfer it into long-term memory, and to pull it back into working memory when it’s needed


Structure of the Information-Processing System

Mental strategies
Sensory register
Working, or short-term memory
Central executive
Long-term memory


Sensory register

Sensory register
Whether or not information moves from here into working memory is often determined by attention


Central executive

Central executive
How do you decide where to focus your attention? How do you tie new information to things you already know? Decide what information you’re likely to need to remember later? Go about remembering it?


Long-term memory

No known limits on duration or capacity


Evaluation of Information-Processing Findings

Unlike Piaget’s stage theory, information processing theories tend to focus on the continuity of thinking throughout life
Information-processing research suggests that infants and toddlers are sophisticated cognitive beings
Breaking cognition down into its components can be considered both a strength and a weakness of this perspective
- It allows us to analyze the effects of the individual components
- It has had difficulty putting the components back together into a broader, more comprehensive theory



Between 1m and 2m infants shift focus between single high-contrast features.
Infants have a hard time disengaging their attention until 3 to 4m because of development in the cerebral cortex that controls eye movement.
Attention becomes increasingly flexible and voluntary
They are attracted to novelty
At 2 to 3m it shows it can be future orientated.
Transition to toddlerhood they become more capable of intentional behavior and attraction to novelty decreases. Sustained attention improves and simple goal-directed behavior is possible.
Parents should foster sustained attention by encouraging their current interest.
Focused attention at 10m predicts higher mental test scores at 18m.


Operant conditioning

Better if they figure it out
Context dependent – less so with age
Older toddlers can generalize


Habituation research

Longer then operant conditioning
Familiarity preference – attending to the familiar
Novelty preference –attending to the novel
3 to 5m are good at discriminating between but not remembering faces
No need to be physically active to remember


Recall memory

Recognition – noticing a stimuli that was previously presented
Recall – remembering without support (mental image)

Recall appears middle of first year



Infants can categorize similar objects and events into a single representation
Research with mobiles
First few months can categorize by (shape, size, other physical properties)
6m (two correlated features, for example shape and colour) (voices, emotional expressions, gender, age, natural actions like walking)
1y (subtle features)
Older infants can even do this when perceptual contrast is little (planes versus birds)
14m (material, play behaviors)
2y (animate vs inanimate, linear vs nonlinear movement)

- Categories become more sensitive for fine grained perceptual features. (flappy feather wings vs hard still wings)
- Babies undergo a fundamental shift from perceptual contrast to constructing categories by common features or functions
- Core knowledge perspective


Evaluation of IP

- Contributed greatly
- Central strength is analyzing cognition into its components (memory, attention, ext)
- Drawback: putting the components together


The Social Context of Early Cognitive Development

Vygotsky focused significantly on the zone of proximal development (skills a child cannot yet do alone but can with help) and scaffolding (adjusting the level of help you give based on child’s needs)
According to Vygotsky, both our skills and our ways of thinking are usually born out of social interaction


Infant Intelligence Tests

Measuring intelligence in infancy is particularly challenging
We do present stimuli and attempt to interpret their responses, so the focus is usually on perceptual and motor responses
It’s important to keep in mind that our results truly are our interpretations

This doesn’t mean, however, that we have no way of making any predictions about a baby’s intellectual future
- Speed of habituation and recovery correlate with later cognitive performance
- Piagetian object-permanence tasks are also relatively good predictors


IQ and DQ

Intelligence quotient, or IQ was once an actual quotient, but now makes use of standardization and normal distribution

In infants, we measure the Developmental Quotient (DQ)
- This essentially acknowledges that we’re tapping different types of skills in infant tests


The Bayley Scales of Infant Development

The Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID) is used on children between 1 month and 3.5 years

The Bayley-III contains three main subtests
- The Cognitive Scale (attention to unfamiliar, pretend play, looking for a fallen object)
- The Language Scale (recognition of people and objects, following simple directions, naming objects and pictures)
- The Motor Scale (gross and fine motor skills: grasping, stairs, stacking blocks)

There are also two scales on the Bayley-III that depend on parental report
- The Social-Emotional Scale (calming, social responsiveness, imitation in play)
- The Adaptive Behaviour Scale (self-control, following rules, getting along with others)


Early Intervention for At-Risk Infants and Toddlers

Poverty leads to low levels of cognitive stimulation leads to cognitive abilities decline leads to low-status employment leads to remain in poverty as adults
Researchers have been giving some attention to intervention programmes, aimed at breaking this cycle
These can be centre-based or home-based

Children who have been part of intervention programmes show more advanced cognitive development than do untreated controls by age 2
These gains last at least as long as the programme does, and sometimes longer

Gains are higher, and longer-lasting, in programmes that:
- Begin earlier
- Last longer
- Have greater intensity
- Have greater scope/breadth
- Involve direct provision of learning experiences


Child care

Poor quality – bad developmental outcomes
Good quality – excellent developmental outcomes

Qualities good child care
- Physical setting: clean, safe, lots of room, fenced outdoor space
- Toys and equipment: age appropriate, accessible,
- Care giver ratio:
- Daily activities
- Interaction between adults and children
- Caregiver qualifications
- Relationship with parents
- Licencing and accreditation


Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment

Check list for gathering info on the quality of a child’s home life through observation and parental interview.
- Correlated with better mental test scores
- Genetics play a part

Emotional and verbal responsiveness of the parent
Parental acceptance of the child
Organization of physical environment
Provision of appropriate play materials
Parental involvement with the child
Opportunities for variety in daily stimulation


Language Development

On average, children
- Say their first word at about 1 year
- Combine 2 words at 1.5-2 years
- Have vocabularies of about 10,000 words and speak in reasonably complex sentences by age 6

Language is one of the most complex tasks that humans must master, and we do it an early age with little explicit teaching


Three Theories of Language Development



Learning/Behaviourisms Theory on Language Development

Behaviourists like B. F. Skinner believe that language is learned in much the same way as other behaviours
- Operant conditioning, shaping, imitation
Evidence suggests that these processes support language development, but don’t fully explain it


Nativist Theory on Language Development

The nativist account suggests that language is at least partially inborn
- Noam Chomsky’s language acquisition device (LAD)
- Dan Slobin’s language making capacity (LMC)

Training by parents is unnecessary

Another question raised by nativists is that of a critical period, or at least a sensitive period, for language development
- Research with deaf individuals who acquired sign language at different ages
- Second-language acquisition

There are several issues with Chomsky’s nativist theory of language development
- Difficulty in specifying a universal grammar
- The gradual way in which children begin to generalize newly-learned grammatical forms, rather than the broad, all-at-once, generalization that might be expected of an innate concept

Evidence for biological underpinnings of language development
- Language development proceeds at a similar pace, in a similar sequence, across children, across cultures
- Most researchers agree that the ability to truly use language is unique to humans
- Specialized brain areas
 Broca’s area
 Wernicke’s area


Language acquisition device (LAD)
Nativist Theory on Language Development

First proposed by Noam Chomsky in the 1960s, the LAD concept is an instinctive mental capacity which enables an infant to acquire and produce language. It is component of the nativist theory of language. This theory asserts that humans are born with the instinct or "innate facility" for acquiring language. The main argument in favor of the LAD is the argument from the poverty of the stimulus, which argues that unless children have significant innate knowledge of grammar they would be unable to learn language as quickly as they do, given that they never have access to negative evidence and rarely received direct instruction in their first language


language making capacity (LMC)

language-making capacity or LMC refers to a hypothesized set of specialized linguistic processing skills that enable children to analyze speech and to detect phonological, semantic, and syntactical relationships.


Broca’s area

supports grammatical processing and language production


Wernicke’s area

plays a role in comprehending word meaning


Interactionist Theory on Language Development

Interactionist theories focus on the necessity of both environmental support and biological capacity, and the necessary interaction between the two
- Some interactionist theories focus on information processing
- Some interactionist theories focus on social interaction

Some interactionist theories based on information-processing blend this approach with Chomsky’s perspective
Infants are proficient at analyzing speech and other information
- That alone, however, may not be enough to explain their mastery of complex grammatical structures

Other interactions focus on social interactions
- The focus here is often on motivation
- Child’s motivation to communicate; parents’ motivation to provide the experiences that the child needs to learn
- There’s still disagreement among theorists from this perspective as to whether or not children are equipped with specialized language structures

Certain information-processing theories focus on general cognitive capacities
- Language is controlled by regions of the brain that are also involved in similar perceptual, motor, and cognitive abilities
- Damage to Wernicke’s area also interferes with processing of patterned non-linguistic stimuli, such as music or series of moving lights depicting familiar shapes


Getting Ready to Talk

Infants show an interest in language before they even approach talking
- They show a preference for speech over other sounds, especially speech in their native language
- They show signs of beginning to segment words, and growing receptive vocabularies
- They make utterances that include increasing numbers of speech sounds

Joint attention improves in the second half of the first year
- This is important for learning to match new words with their proper referents

At the end of the first year, we see infants communicating using preverbal gestures
- Showing adults objects to which they wish to call their attention
- Pointing to something they want



Cooing - pleasant vowel-like noises made by infants, beginning around 2 months of age



Babbling - repetition of consonant-vowel combinations in long strings, beginning around 6 months of age
- Babbling can be reduplicated or variegated
- Toward the end of the first year, we see babbling drift


First Words

The first spoken words (or sounds that parents identify as words) usually occur at about 1 year
Earliest words usually refer to important people, animals, objects that move, foods, and familiar actions and their outcomes
- Early words are usually concrete in English-speaking children; there is some cultural variation here

Some early words can be linked to specific cognitive achievements
- Disappearance words, such as “all gone” appear as toddlers master advanced object permanence problems
- Success and failure expressions, such as “there” or “uh-oh” appear when we begin to see sudden solution of sensorimotor problems, rather than always trial and error

the second year of life, children learn a remarkable number of words
It may be the incredible speed of word-learning, and the fast-mapping involved, that leads to several early word errors
- Overextensions – bear is her one teddy bear
- Underextensions – bear is any fury animal
- Overlaps -


The Two-Word Utterance Phase

When vocabulary approaches about 200 words, toddlers begin combining 2 words at a time


Telegraphic speech

toddlers’ two-word utterances that, like a telegram, omits smaller and less important words
- Content words are usually included, while grammatical morphemes are often dropped


Comprehension and production

Comprehension develops ahead of production at all ages
- However, the two are related—children who are advanced in comprehension are often also advanced in production


Individual and Cultural Differences in Language Development

The environment contributes to both group and individual differences in language development
For instance…
- Parents speak more to toddler-aged girls than boys
- Parents converse less with shy children than with sociable ones
- Lower-SES children receive less verbal stimulation than do higher-SES children, and usually have smaller vocabularies

There are both individual and cultural differences in style of speech
- Referential style
- Expressive style


Referential style of speech

Referential style is common in Western cultures, and is particularly common in children with a high interest in exploring objects


Expressive style of speech

Expressive style is more common in collectivist cultures (e.g., Asian cultures), and in children who are particularly sociable


Supporting Early Language Development

Infants prefer child-directed speech (aka infant-directed speech, parentese, motherese) to adult-directed speech, seem to segment sounds better in CDS, and are emotionally responsive to it by 5 months of age
- CDS is common in a variety of cultures, but is not a cultural universal


Language milestones

2m – cooing, pleasant vowel sounds
4m – interested in turn taking games
6m - babble, adding consonants to cooing. Comprehend commonly heard words
7m – babbling includes sounds of spoken language
8-12m – establishing joint attention with caregiver who verbally labels what the baby is looking at. Participate in turn taking games. Preverbal gestures (pointing, showing,)
12m – babbling includes intonation patterns of child’s language. Speed and accuracy of comprehension goes up. They say their first word.
18-24m – spoken vocab expands form 50 to 200 words. They combine 2 words


Spurt in vocabulary

Between 18 and 24m. (one or 2 words a day)


Chid directed speech

Short sentences, high pitched, exaggerated expression, clear pronunciation, distinct pauses, clear gestures to support meaning, repetition of new words in different contexts


Support language development

Respond to coos with speech sounds and words – encourages experimentation and provides turn taking experience

Establish joint attention and comment on what child sees – faster vocab/language development

Play social games – turn taking

Make believe play – conversational dialog

Frequent conversations – early language development and school success

Read to them and talk about the book - exposure