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Lecture 9

Lecture 9 - Cognitive Development – The Piagetian Approach con't

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University of Toronto St. George

March 21, 2011 Cognitive Development – The Piagetian Approach  Two related themes that Piaget deals with: o Progressive decentring  Progressive reduction in egocentrism  Don’t confuse egocentrism with egotism!  Egocentrism is only being able to see things from your point of view – the way you see things is the way they are  Children become more and more capable of distinguishing between self and world  Increasing ability to discover invariance o Discovery and use of invariance  Ex: number is invariant – “three” occurs across modalities  Start to see the world as independent from them  Intermodal integration – affords improvement of invariance – world separate from child – affords them to look for more marks of an independent world – discovery of invariance – reduction in egocentrism – search for more invariance  Suggested confound in Piaget’s work o Tasks are very complex – perhaps kids are failing the tasks not because they lack the abilities, but because the tests are too complicated o Pillow situation – these kids are focusing on just learning how to move around! Moving between the pillows consumes all their mental resources o Perhaps tests are not revealing a lack of ability, but masking the ability o Kids might have more competence than we know, but we are using the wrong performance tasks to asses competence o Tempting to use much simpler task to assess complex task of object permanence, but, if they are successful in this task, perhaps they don’t actually have the sophisticated competence you’re testing for but a much simpler competence that is sufficient for the simple task o Quite a paradox – THERE IS NO PERFECT TEST o Do different tests to make various interpretations  How do we assess what’s going on in kids’ minds when they can’t talk? It’s hard enough figuring out adult minds! o Use the idea of habituation – stimulus becomes less salient the longer it is present o Determine if kids are treating stimuli as the same or different o Habituate child to A stimulus, then show child B stimulus – if it doesn’t react, it sees A and B as the same. If child reacts to B, it obviously knows that B is different. This is a way to determine how child identifies things o Doesn’t require child to initiate any behaviour, little demand on the child – all they have to do is look at stuff  Baillargeon 1987 (a) o Child and screen with box behind it o Possible situation or event – screen stops and hides box o Impossible event – screen goes all the way down and a trap door in the floor eats the box o If the kids are really startled when the screen stops on the box, they have no object permanence because they don’t realize the box is stopping the screen o If the kids are really startled when the screen flattens all the way, this suggests they have object permanence because they realize the box should be stopping the screen o 4.5 month olds showed surprise for the impossible event! This is much earlier than Piaget says they should have object permanence o vision hardly works at this point! Perhaps there is an alternative explanation for these results o just a visual task – maybe the block is just in short term memory – visual confusion of two images interfering causes surprise – doesn’t indicate any sophisticated ability o counter argument – could be perceptual confusion  Baillargeon 1987 (b) o Replaces box with easily compressible ball of gauze o Kids with object permanence won’t be surprised when screen flattens all the way because object is squishy o Kids without object permanence will be surprised because of perceptual confusion o What were findings? 4.5 month olds were not surprised when screen fell all the way down o Indicates that kids have something like object permanence o Also evidence for intermodality – tactile squishiness combine with vision o Moving cars on track with block in the way  Possible event – car stops at block  Impossible event – car travels through  Child show surprise at impossible event  This example doesn’t have the screen potentially causing visual confusion  Evidence is getting greater and greater for object permanence at 4.5 months o But infants’ ability is limited – we shouldn’t assume full object permanence o If a little car is on one side and a big car comes out the other side, that doesn’t startle them o Suggests a much less definitive representation of an object not currently being perceived – representation of SOMETHING behind the screen – much more like a mental pointer than a name – calling this object permanence would be too strong o Not so surprising that they have this ability – we as adults also have “demonstrative reference” – using words like “this” or “that” to refer to things – basically a placeholder o We need this ability in order to name things – we need to be able to gather “this” “this” and “this” together before we can group it together and name it  Pylyshyn experiment – Multiple Object Tracking o Screen filled with objects, 8 of them are moving, the rest are stationary. The more objects you have to track moving, the less definitive the representation becomes. Experimenter can change shape, size, or colour of objects and it becomes less likely you will notice o Pylyshyn calls this FINSTing – Fingers of Instantiation – brain puts a mental finger on things without knowing exactly what they are  Piaget is partially wrong: these abilities develop gradually, takes a year to develop, children come with innate tracking abilities, allows them to track the world and build up object permanence (top-down and bottom-up rather than Piaget’s solely bottom-up approach) o Top-down is innate/biological, bottom up is environmental interaction  You have to be able to point at the world before you can name it, and this FINSTing ability slowly develops into object permanence  Evidence for sophisticated cognitive competence before physical sensory motor competence – contrary to what Piaget suggests  Cognitive ability can’t be just derived from sensory motor competence/interactions with the world as Piaget suggests – 4.5 month olds can’t really interact with the environment in a sensory way  Sensorimotor period ends here, but it’s not really right to call it just the sensorimotor period  Next huge stage is pre-operational stage, 2-6 years o Representational ability mastered o Independently manipulatable symbols – symbolic functions o 5 forms of behavioural evidence for a fully functioning symbolic function  1. Internal problem solving  2. Invisible displacement  3. First words to refer to absent objects  children start to ask for things they cannot currently see – “cookie?”  4. Def
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