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All Readings for Midterm 2

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McMaster University
Jennifer Ostovich

6.1: Piaget‟s Theory of Cognitive Development  Children construct theories to make the world seem more predictable  Assimilation: New experiences are readily incorporated into a child‟s existing theories  Accommodation: A child‟s theories are modified based on experience  Disequilibrium – children discover their current theories are not adequate because they are spending much more time accommodating than assimilating  Equilibration: Children reorganize their theories to return to a state of equilibrium  Schemas: Mental structures whose formation is driven by equilibration - Not static once formed – constantly changing  Integration of all the schemas together allows organization of information into a coherent whole The Sensorimotor Stage (Birth-2)  Infant progresses from simple reflex actions to symbolic processing  Progression along 3 important fronts: 1) Adapting to and exploring the environment 2) Understanding objects; object permanence 3) Using symbols  Substage 1 (Birth – 1 month): Basic reflexes  Substage 2 (1-4 months): Primary circular reactions - Primary circular reaction: An infant accidentally produces some pleasing event and then tries to recreate the event - Use of reflexes becomes more complex and intentional  Substage 3 (4-8 months): Secondary circular reactions - Secondary circular reaction: An infant discovers repeated actions that involve an object (e.g. grasping a mobile  mobile moves) - No longer grasping objects simply because they are in contact with their hands  Substage 4 (8-12 months): Intentional behaviour - The means of an activity are distinct from the ends - E.g. if a father‟s hand is in the way of a toy – the infant will move his hand (“means” in order to achieve the end goal of grasping the toy)  Substage 5 (12-18 months): Tertiary circular reactions - Tertiary circular reaction: An infant repeats old actions with new objects  understand whether different objects yield different outcomes - E.g. shaking objects to see which ones produce sound  Substage 6 (18-24 months): Using symbols - Words and gestures - Pretend playing - Deferred imitation: Behaviour seen in another time and place is reproduced - Once infants can use symbols, they can begin to anticipate the consequences of actions mentally, instead of having to perform them The Preoperational Stage (2-7)  Marked by child‟s use of symbols to represent objects and events  Egocentrism: Cannot understand that other people have different ideas and feelings  Animism: Assigning life/lifelike properties to inanimate objects  Centration: Tunnel vision – concentrate on one aspect of a problem while totally ignoring other relevant aspects - e.g. in the conservation of liquid task – concentrate on height while ignoring diameter The Concrete Operational Stage (7-11)  No longer egocentric  Children first use mental operations to solve problems and to reason  Mental operations: Strategies and rules that make thinking more systematic and more powerful - E.g. arithmetic, categorization, spatial relations  Mental operations are reversible – e.g. if you poured the juice back into the original container, the objects would be identical  However – thinking is limited to the tangible, here and now (concrete) The Formal Operational Stage (11+)  Children and adults apply mental operations to abstract entities - They think hypothetically and reason deductively  They can envision alternative realities e.g. “what would happen if gravity meant that objects floated up?”  Can solve problems by creating hypotheses and testing them  Deductive reasoning: Drawing an appropriate conclusion when given a set of facts/premises Piaget‟s Contributions to Research 1) The study of cognitive development itself (he looked at how it happens; cognitive processes etc.) 2) Constructivism: The view that children are active participants in their own development who systematically construct ever more sophisticated understandings of their world 3) Counterintuitive discoveries e.g. the “A not B” task or the conservation tasks Weaknesses of Piaget‟s Theory  Underestimates cognitive competence in infants/young children – they have a greater understanding of objects  Overestimates cognitive competence in adolescents – they often fail to reason using formal ops principles, and revert to concrete ops reasoning  Vague with respects to processes and mechanisms of change (e.g. assimilation and accommodation are too vague to test scientifically)  Does not account for variability in children‟s performance  Undervalues the influence of sociocultural environment 6.2: Modern Theories of Cognitive Development The Sociocultural Perspective: Lev Vygotsky‟s Theory  Children are products of their culture  Cognitive development is not only brought about by social interaction, but it is also inseparable from the cultural contexts in which children live 1) Culture defines which cognitive activities are valued (e.g. reading vs. star navigation) 2) Culture provides tools that shape the way children think (e.g using an abacus, a pen and paper, or a calculator) 3) Higher-level cultural practices help children organize their knowledge and communicate it to others (e.g. in North America, children work alone more than in groups)  Intersubjectivity: Mutual, shared understanding among participants in an activity  Guided participation: Children work on structured activities with others who are more skilled than they are  leads to cognitive development  Zone of proximal development: The difference between what you do with assistance (e.g. with guidance or instructions0 and what you can do when left alone  Scaffolding: A teaching style that matches the amount of assistance (high or low) to the learner‟s needs  Cultural differences: Scaffolding provided by parents in USA, Turkey, India and Guatemala - Turkish parents use verbal instruction and gestures (pointing, nodding, shrugging) - USA uses the same, but less - Indian parents use verbal instruction, gesture, and touch (e.g. nudging) or gaze (e.g. winking) - Guatemalan parents use the most of all 3  Private speech: Children talking to themselves to help regulate their own behaviour - An intermediate step toward self-regulation of cognitive skills - Used more often during difficult tasks than easy ones - Eventually becomes:  Inner speech: Thought.  Cooperative learning: - Peer tutoring - Group projects - Achieving common goals (e.g. deciding rules for a classroom)  Builds self-esteem, social skills (negotiation, consensus, conflict resolution) Information Processing Theory  Human cognition consists of mental hardware and mental software  Piaget‟s theory emphasizes qualitative changes  Information processing theory emphasizes quantitative changes  Sensory memory: Information is held very briefly in raw, unanalyzed form (a few seconds)  Working memory: The site of ongoing cognitive activity (like RAM)  Long-term memory: Limitless, permanent storehouse of knowledge of the world (like hard drive)  Coordinating all these activities is the central executive, which is like the OS - Moves info from working memory to long-term memory; selects strategies to accomplish goals; executes needed responses How Information Processing Changes with Development  Better strategies: - Older children use strategies that are faster, more accurate, and easier (like updated mental software) - By structuring children‟s actions and providing hints, adults demonstrate new strategies and how best to use them  Increased capacity of working memory: - Modern computers have much more RAM  can run more complex software - Older children have more working memory capacity (e.g. reading, solving complex problems)  More effective inhibitory processes and executive functioning: - Inhibitory processes prevent task-irrelevant information from entering working memory - e.g. being able to ignore the conversations in a café to study psychology - Executive functioning: Inhibitory processes + planning + cognitive flexibility - Good problem-solving requires a plan, flexibility when the old plan no longer works, and the ability to inhibit irrelevant responses - Linked to the frontal cortex, which develops throughout childhood  Increased automatic processing: - Automatic processes: Cognitive activities that require virtually no effort (e.g. typing) - When learning a new skill – each individual step must be stored in working memory - When a skill has been mastered – individual steps are no longer stored in working memory (frees up capacity)  Increased speed of processing: - A range of tasks such as: Deciding which of 2 numbers is greater; naming a pictured object; searching memory - 4-5 year olds are 1/3 as fast as adults - 8-9 year olds are ½ as fast as adults Core-Knowledge Theories  Propose distinctive domains of knowledge, some of which are acquired very early in life - E.g. language, mathematic, emotional, biological  Some forms of knowledge (e.g. verbal communication) are so important for human survival that specialized systems evolved to simplify their learning - E.g. mental structures that simplify language learning - Others: Knowledge of objects; simple understanding of people  Some theorists believe these mental structures (modules) are pre-wired to analyze one kind of data (e.g. speech sounds) very efficiently but nothing else  Other theorists use Piaget‟s metaphor of child-as-scientist and describe them as specialized theories  Children‟s theories focus on core domains and don‟t start from scratch – they have a few innate principles - E.g. the principle of cohesion – objects move as connected wholes 6.3: Understanding in Core Domains  Formation of categories  Infants‟ first categories denote groups of objects with many similar perceptual features - E.g. “dog” category – four-legged animals with a distinctive snout - E.g. “tree” category – large bark-covered objects with limbs  Age 18 months: Combining categories (e.g. trees and flower) to form more general ones (e.g. plants); and subdividing categories (e.g. flowers  roses, tulips, daisies) #1: Understanding Objects and Their Properties  Renee Baillargeon:  Infants also know that: - Objects move along connected, continuous paths - Objects cannot move “through” other objects - Infants look longer at objects that violate these properties  Middle of first year: Infants understand that one object striking a second object will cause the second to move  Later in the first year: Infants are surprised when a tall object is completely hidden behind a shorter object #2: Understanding Living Things  Infants and toddlers use motion to identify animate objects vs. inanimate objects  Age 12-15 months: Children have determined that animate objects are self-propelled, can move in irregular paths, and act to achieve goals  Age 4 theories of biology: - Movement (self-propelled) - Growth (bigger and physically more complex) - Internal parts (blood/bones vs. cotton/metal) - Inheritance (e.g. a baby pig adopted by a cow would grow up to be a pig) - Illness: Permanent (colour blindness, allergies) are heritable; temporary (cold, flu) are from contact with other people - Healing: Self-healing by regrowth, or fixed using tools  Teleological explanations: Children believe that living things and parts of living things exist for a purpose - They got this idea because they know objects such as tools/machines are made with a purpose in mind - “Lions exist so people can see them in a zoo” - “Fish have smooth skin so they won‟t cut other fish while swimming” - Echoes of animistic thinking: Children attribute their own intentions and goals to other living objects - The heart “wants” to pump blood and bones “want” to grow  Essentialism: Children believe that all living things have an essence that can‟t be seen but gives the thing its identity - E.g. „bird-ness” lets birds fly and sing; “dog-ness” lets dogs bark (explains inheritance beliefs about pig and cow) #3: Understanding People  Naïve psychology: Our informal beliefs about other people and their behaviour  Infants understand that people‟s behaviour is often intentional (designed to achieve a goal) - E.g. if you say “where are the crackers?” and then search the cupboards, the infant understands that your actions were related to your goal Olineck & Pouin-Dubois (2009)
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