Week 4 Readings (Part Two)
• Approaches that emphasize sophistication of infants’and young children’s thinking in areas
that have been important throughout human evolutionary history
• Two characteristics:
o Research focuses on areas such as understanding of other people’s goals and
intentions that have been important throughout human evolutionary history
Recognize difference between living and nonliving things, identifying human
faces, finding one’s way around the environment and learning language
o In certain areas of probable importance in human evolution, young children reasoning
ways that are considerably more advanced than Piaget suggested were possible
View of Children’s Nature
• Core-knowledge theories depict children as active learners.
• The way in which core-knowledge theories differ most dramatically from Piagetian and
information-processing theories is in their view of children’s innate capabilities.
o Piaget and most information-processing theorists believe that children enter the world
equipped with only general learning abilities and that they must actively apply these
abilities to gradually increase their understanding of all types of content.
o In contrast, core-knowledge theorists view children as entering the world equipped
not only with general learning abilities but also with specialized learning
mechanisms, or mental structures that allow them to quickly and effortlessly acquire
information of evolutionary importance.
• Research on infants’face perception supports the view that people possess specialized
learning mechanisms for acquiring information important to survival.
o From birth onward, brain structures outside the cortex, in particular the superior
colliculus, bias infants to prefer looking at faces over other objects
• Approaches that emphasize that other people and the surrounding culture contribute to
• Sociocultural theorists emphasize that much of development takes place through direct
interactions between children and other people—parents, siblings, teachers, playmates, and
so on—who want to help children acquire the skills and knowledge valued by their culture.
o Thus, whereas Piagetian, information-processing, and core- knowledge theories
emphasize children’s own efforts to understand the world, sociocultural theories
emphasize the developmental importance of children’s interactions with other people.
• Guided participation: process in which more knowledgeable individuals organize activities
in ways that allow less knowledgeable people to learn
• Broad cultural context
o Includes not only other people but also innumerable products of human ingenuity that
sociocultural theorists refer to as cultural tools: symbols, systems, artifacts, skills,
o Sociocultural theories can help us appreciate the many aspects of culture embodied in
the smallest everyday interactions Week 4 Readings (Part Two)
View of Children’s Nature
• (Piaget vs.) Vygotsky
o Piaget depicted children as little scientists, trying to understand the world on their
Vygotsky, in contrast, portrayed them as social beings, intertwined with other
people who are eager to help them gain skills and under- standing.
o Piaget viewed children as intent on mastering physical, mathematical, and logical
concepts that are the same in all times and places,
Vygotsky viewed them as intent on participating in activities that happen to be
prevalent in their local setting.
o Piaget emphasized qualitative changes in thinking,
Vygotsky emphasized continuous, quantitative changes.
o These Vygotskyian views gave rise to the central metaphor of sociocultural theories:
children as social beings, shaped by, and shaping, their cultural contexts.
o Vygotsky’s emphasis on children as social beings is evident in his perspective on the
relation between language and thought.
o Whereas Piaget viewed the two as largely unrelated,
Vygotsky viewed them as integrally related
• He believed that thought is internalized speech and that thought
originates in large part in statements that parents and other adults make
o 3 phases of internalizing speech in development of children’s ability to regulate own
behaviour and problem solve:
At first, children’s behavior is controlled by other people’s statements;
then, children’s behavior is controlled by their own private speech, in which
they tell themselves aloud what to do, much as their parents might have
earlier; and then
Their behavior is controlled by internalized private speech (thought), in which
they silently tell themselves what to do.
o The transition between the second and third phases often involves whispers or silent
In Vygotsky’s terms, the speech “goes underground” and becomes thought.
Private speech is most prevalent between ages 4 and 6 years, although older
children and adults also use it on challenging tasks, such as assembling model
air- planes or following complex directions
The progression from external to internalized speech emerges not only with
age but also with experience;
• children generate a considerable amount of overt private speech when
they first encounter a challenging task, but the amount lessens as they
• Children as Products of their Culture
o Sociocultural theorists believe that many of the processes that produce development,
such as guided participation, are the same in all societies.
However, the content that children learn—the particular symbol systems,
artifacts, skills, and values—vary greatly from culture to culture and shape
thinking accordingly. Week 4 Readings (Part Two)
o American and Chinese college students were asked to solve two problems.
One problem required a solution akin to the strategy of leaving a trail of bright
stones in “Hansel and Gretel,” a tale well known to theAmerican students but
unknown to the Chinese.
TheAmerican students were far more successful in solving that problem, and
many of them alluded to the fairy tale even though they had not heard it in
The other problem required a solution analogous to a fairy tale that was well
known to the Chinese students but unknown to theAmericans.
• In this case, the Chinese students were vastly superior in solving that
problem, and many alluded to the relevant fairy tale.
o Children’s memories of their own experiences reflect their culture.
When 4- to 8-year-olds from China and the United States were asked to
describe their earliest memories, their descriptions differed in ways that
reflected their culture’s attitudes and values.