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Flashcards in cognitive development Deck (26):

Piaget: Preoperational stage 2-7 years

Start to move away from sensorimotor activities and start to focus
on symbolic representations
Start to mentally represent their world through the use of symbols
– most notably language
Have a good understanding of object permanence from earlier
stages, but still a period of cognitive limitations
• Conservation, centration and reversibility
• Limited classification skills
• Animism and magical thinking


Reflections on conservation tasks

Many of his observations done on his own children, but then
developed a theory of universal child development
Subsequent testing suggests that children may be able to achieve
some of these tasks earlier than Piaget suggested
• ‘naughty teddy’ (McGarrigle & Donaldson 1975)
The framing of the questioning shown to have implications for
• Interpretation of words ‘more’, ‘less’, ‘same’
• Experimenter leading the child – why ask the same question twice?
Socially pressured to give a different answer the second time around?


Contemporary Piaget: Social Influences

Piaget has been criticised for the lack of attention given to the role of peers in
cognitive development
Botvin and Murray (1975) systematically investigated effects of peer
disagreement on conservation performance
• Groups of 5 children – 2 non-conservers and 3 conservers
• Found: following engagements in discussions with peers, non-conservers became
conservers. Generalisable to other tasks.
Perret-Clermont (1980) two non-conservers put together to discuss a
conservation problem.
• Found: peer discussions led to gains in conservation skills when tested individually
Peer interaction and observation of peers therefore potentially important
instructional experiences


Contemporary Piaget: Culture

How acceptable is it to disagree openly with peers? What about conflict and
disputes with adults and teachers?
Goodnow et al (1984) Japanese mothers less tolerant of debates and
disagreements amongst peers that US mothers who encouraged their children
• State own preferences when asked
• Stand up for their rights with others
• Get their own way through persuading friends
Goodnow et al (1984) found Anglo-Australian mothers similar to US mothers.
Lebanese-Australian mothers more similar to Japanese in favouring
unquestioning obedience in their children and discouraging open
disagreement with peers


Contemporary Piaget: Culture more

Differences in benefits of peer conflict and peer debate?
Mackie (1980) intervention study aimed at boosting Maori children’s
attainment of conservation
• 18 non-conserving Pakeha and 18 non-conserving Maori children
Found: Maori children benefited from peer debate but not peer
conflict, Pakeha from both
Mackie proposed that this was linked with the peer-oriented structure
of Polynesian society, and its emphasis on cooperation and successful negotiation of solutions


Theory of Mind

Egocentrism: the tendency to confuse your own point of view with
that of another person.
Psychologists refer to this as ‘Theory of Mind’
Piaget illustrated this ability through the three mountains task
• Children had to take the perspective of another and describe what they
can see
Piaget believed that children under 8 years old lacked a theory of
Some evidence to suggest earlier, gradual development


Contemporary thinking of ToM

Simon Baron-Cohen (1995) ToM is one of the things that makes us human
Often assessed using false belief tasks
Baron-Cohen, Leslie and Frith (1985) Sally-Anne Task
• Compared children with Down Syndrome, children with AS and typically
developing children
• Two dolls Sally and Anne. Sally has a basket, Anne has a box. Sally has a marble
and puts it in her basket, then goes for a walk. Unknown to Sally, Anne takes the
marble and puts it in her box
• Children asked to predict where Sally would look for the marble when she returned to the room
• To give the ‘correct’ answer need to understand the concept of false belief


ASD and theory of mind

Autism is a developmental disorder characterised by a dyad of
• Language, communication and social interaction; imagination and repetitive
Suggested that people with ASD never develop a ToM and this is a skill
necessary for interactions
Children with ASD do poorly on the Sally-Anne test compared to peers
with Down Syndrome and typically developing children
Continue to have problems imagining other peoples thoughts and beliefs
in adolescence and adulthood
Some debate as to this assertion in more recent literature


Moral reasoning

Two aspects to morality (Smith, Cowie & Blades, 2003)
• Moral reasoning: refers to how we judge whether an action is
right or wrong. Sometimes called moral judgement
• Moral behaviour: refers to a course of action, the behavioural
element of morality
The two not necessarily the same thing
At this stage of development we see the beginnings of the development of moral reasoning


Piaget and moral development

Watched children play marbles and posed moral
Interested in:
• How rules were acquired
• Where they thought rules came from
• Could rules be altered
Rules of the games taken to be representative of rules of
• Is this too big an assumption?


Stages in rule understanding

Piaget identified three stages in children’s awareness of rules
Stage 1 (up to 4/5 years): rules not understood
Stage 2 (4/5-9/10 years): rules seen as coming from higher authority e.g.
adults; could not be changed. Inflexible
• If children were encouraged to invent a rule they would perceive it as cheating as
the rule was not from within the game
Stage 3 (9/10 years and above): rules mutually agreed by players of the
game and open to change if all players agreed on the changes
Linked to changes in cognitive development


Heteronomous vs. autonomous morality

Amoral stage: up to 4/5 years. Lacking the cognitive capacity to make
judgments about right and wrong
Heteronomous morality: 4/5 – 9/10 years. Morality of coercion or restraint,
controlled by a greater power such as adults. Belief in imminent justice –
transgressions evoking immediate punishment
Autonomous morality: 9/10 years. Morality of cooperation. Rules less rigid
and more flexible; better at perspective taking and so can see things from
another’s point of view; punishment not necessarily immediate and ‘to fit
the crime’ and dependent on witness statements


Language Acquisition

Language a way of communicating using symbols, which may be in
the form of spoken words, written or signs
Difference between expressive language and receptive language
• Overextensions suggest that receptive language may be better than
expressive language
McMurray (2007) first words around 12 months, but 18 months
know around 70, then explosion to 14,000 words by 6 years
As well as an understanding and acquisition of actual words, there is also an explosion in grammatical development and the understanding of semantics


Development of grammar and pragmatics

Syntax refers to the order of language
By 18 months – 2 years start to use two word utterances and therefore start
needing to understand syntax
◦ At this stage a heavy reliance on context
Start to see MLU increase, and the complexity of language use increases as
start to bring in wh- words
Pragmatics is the understanding of when, how and where to use different
language forms
Cultural influences in the development of pragmatics
◦ Nakamura (2001) Japanese children develop polite forms earlier than Western
children – emphasis on these qualities in cultural understanding


Learning Theory

Skinner proposed language development could be explained
through the principles of behaviourism
Children learn language through process of operant conditioning
• Conditioned responses to objects maintained through reinforcement
Children rewarded by parents for approximate use of language
and then shaped into culturally acceptable forms
Evidence for this? Do we directly reinforce and correct grammar
for example?
• Do older siblings do this more directly?


Social Learning Theory

A focus on the social learning processes involved in language
Parents a central figure in the ‘scaffolding’ of their children’s
language learning
Draw on imitation as a way of practising and developing language
– but not just direct repetition
Play can also be a place where children can practice the new skills
they have learned
Might be good at accounting for things like accent and use of local dialects and ideas, but what about overgeneralisations?


Language Acquisition Device (LAD)

Noam Chomsky (1950s) directly challenged Skinner’s theory
• Could not account for speed with which young children learn language
• Inconsistent reinforcement and imperfect grammar heard for imitation
Proposed a LAD – specialist brain structures facilitate the learning of
LAD activated once children hear human speech
Concept of universal grammar
• Evidence from Berko (1958) and the ‘wug test’
• Wug test
But does it downplay environment too much?
Can explain grammar but what about pragmatics and semantics?


Nature AND Nurture??

Interactionist approaches combine behaviourist and nativist
• Acknowledge that children are genetically predisposed to acquire
language, but also need particular experiences for language to develop
Language not separate from other cognitive and social
• Dixon (2004) and Yang (2006) language grows through interaction of an
active child and social linguistic experiences with key people – siblings,
parents, peers
• Bruner (1983) caregivers show children how to take turns in ‘conversations’ even before infants have words


Language Development in Deaf Children

Formal signing systems akin to other languages, with complex
linguistic components
Links between language and cultural values – ‘Deaf’ a unique culture
• For example Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod
Sign languages have unique styles – not just a mirroring of spoken
language in gestures
In terms of development, similar patterns to hearing children
Similar learning environments – Deaf mothers use child-directed speech


Early childhood education

Increasing numbers of pre-school children attending various
daycare/preschool settings
Benefits include higher verbal skills, stronger perform on
measures of memory and listening comprehension, social benefits
Important for low SES families
Perform better on school readiness measures than children who
do not attend preschool
Do these stats provide the full story?


Quality daycare should include:

Education and training of teachers
◦ Class size and child-to-teacher ratio
◦ Age-appropriate materials and activities
◦ Teacher-child interactions


Different approaches

Reggio Emilia


Meanwhile in Australia……

In 2017, there was the introduction of a national Early Years
Learning Framework for children from birth to 5
All children have the best start in life to create a better
future for themselves and for the nation
Specific emphasis on play‐based learning and recognises the importance of communication and language, as well as social and emotional development.
Belonging, being, and becoming


TV and learning?

Preschool children benefit from quality educational
television programming
Kids who are inactive for long periods of time (i.e., watching
tv or playing games) can have poor physical, social, and
intellectual development
◦ Aggression, anxiety, depression, social isolation
◦ Reduced gross motor skills, obesity
◦ Increased intake of snacks and soft drinks
◦ Delays in language development


Stats on Media use

Government recommendations for 2‐5 y.o. is less that 1
hour per day.
Tv still the main source of media use
52% of 2‐5 y.o.s have access to smartphones, iPods, tablets
whereas other research has demonstrated that 80% of
children have access to a smart phone.
69% of parents believe that computer help rather than hurt
learning and are frequently used among 4‐8 y.o.s


Content and learning

Child‐specific channels – Nick Jr, Disney, Baby First but also
access to YouTube channels, Netflix, etc.
Digital content being developed for smart phones/tablets