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Chapter 3

Chapter 3 Brain and Development

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PSYC 355
Martin Davidson

PSYC 355 Book Notes Chapter 3: The Brain and Cognitive Development THE BRAIN Neurons - Neurons – nerve cells, which are the nervous system’s basic units - Myelination – the process by which the axon portion of the neuron becomes covered and insulated with a layer of fat cells, which increases the speed and efficiency of information processing in the nervous system - Synapses – gaps between the neurons, where connections between the axon and dendrites occur Brain Structure, Cognition, and Emotion - Corpus callosum – a large bundle of axon fibers that connect the brain’s left and right hemisphere - Prefrontal cortex – the highest level of the brain’s frontal lobes that is involved with reasoning, decision making, and self-control - Amygdala – a portion of the brain’s limbic system that is the seat of emotions Experience and Plasticity - In childhood and adolescence, the brain has a remarkable ability of being able to repair itself THE COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENTAL VIEW Piaget’s Theory - Cognitive Processes o Schema – a mental concept or framework that is useful in organizing and interpreting information o Assimilation – the incorporation of new information into existing knowledge o Accommodation – an adjustment of a schema to new information o Equilibration – a mechanism that explains ho individuals shift from one state of thought to the next  Shift occurs as individuals experience cognitive conflict or a disequilibrium in trying to understand the world - Stages of Cognitive Development o Sensorimotor – infants construct an understanding of the world by coordinating sensory experiences  Gain knowledge from the physical actions they perform on the world  Birth to 2 years old o Preoperational – children begin to represent their world with images, drawings, and images  Symbolic thought goes beyond simple connections of information and action  2 to 7 years old o Concrete Operational – logical reasoning replaces intuitive thought so long as the reasoning can be applied to concrete examples  Conservation, classification  7 to 11 years old o Formal Operational – characterized by abstract, idealistic, and logical thought  Emerges at 11 to 15 years old  They can reason about hypothetical situations o Metacognition – thinking about thinking o Hypothetical-deductive reasoning – ability to develop a hypothesis about ways to solve a problem, and then systematically deduce the best path to follow in solving the problem - Criticisms o Effects of culture on cognitive development o Timing and nature of the stages  Some cognitive abilities have been found to emerge earlier than Piaget had thought o According to neo-Piagetians, Piaget fails to focus on attention, memory, and cognitive strategies - Cognitive Changes in Adulthood o Realistic and Pragmatic Thinking – as they face the constraints of reality, their idealism decreases o Reflective and Relativistic Thinking – become more aware of diverse and multtiplistic perspectives rather than the right vs. wrong dualistic perspective o Cognition and Emotion – ability to think in a cognitively and emotionally balanced, advanced matter increases in middle adulthood - Is there a fifth stage? Postformal thought o Reflexive, reflective, and contextual – continues to increase and becomes more internal and less contextual in middle age o Provisional – search for truth as never-ending process o Realistic – understand that thinking can’t always be abstract o Recognize that thought is influenced by emotion Vygotsky’s Theory - Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) – range off tasks that are too difficult for an individual to master alone, but that can be mastered with the guidance and assistance of adults or more-skilled peers o Lower limit – level of problem solving reached on these tasks by the child working alone o Upper limit – level of additional responsibility child can accept with assistance of an able instructor - Social constructivist approach – emphasizes the social contexts of learning and that the construction of knowledge is through social interaction THE INFORMATION-PROCESSING VIEW Cognitive Resources – capacity and speed of processing - Increases with age Attention – concentration and focusing of mental resources - Selective Attention – focusing on a specific aspect of experience that is relevant while ignoring others that are irrelevant - Divided Attention – concentration on more than one activity at the same time o Multitasking can considerably reduce attention from key task (i.e. homework and texting) - Sustained Attention – ability to maintain attention to a selected stimulus for a prolonged period of time - Executive Attention – type of attention that involves action planning, allocating attention to goals, error detection and compensation, monitoring progress on tasks, dealing with novel or difficult circumstances Memory – the retention of information over time - To successfully learn and reason, adolescents need to hold on to information and retrieve it when necessary - Short-term memory – limited-capacity memory system o Information is retained for as long as 30 seconds, unless rehearsed, in which case tit can be retained longer - Working memory – mental workbench where individuals manipulate and assemble information when they make decisions, solve problems, and comprehend written and spoken language o Continues to improve through the transition to adulthood and beyond - Long-term memory – relatively permanent memory system o Holds huge amounts of information for a long period of time o Increases substantially in the middle and late childhood years o Depends on the learning activities engaged in when an individual is learning and remembering information  Strategies – activities under the learner’s conscious control • i.e. organization – tendency to group or arrange items into categories Executive Functioning – umbrella-like concept that involves higher-order, complex cognitive processes that include exercising cognitive control, making decisions, reasoning, thinking critically, thinking creatively, and metacognition - Cognitive control – involves effective control and flexible thinking in a number of areas, including controlling attention, reducing interfering thoughts, etc. o Also called inhibitory control or effortful control – emphasizes the ability to resist a strong inclination to do one thing but instead to do what is most effective - Control Attention and Reduce Interfering Thoughts o Key aspect of learning and thinking o External distractions – students talking during lecture, checking Facebook in class o Intrusive distractions – competing thoughts in the individuals mind i.e. self doubt, worrying, emotionally laden thoughts o Cognitive Flexibility – involves being aware that options and alternatives are available and adapting to the situation - Decision Making o Compared with children, young adolescents are more likely to generate different options, examine a situation from a variety of perspectives, anticipate the consequences of decisions, and consider the credibility of sources o Most people make better decisions when
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