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PSYC 3440 (22)
Chapter 1

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PSYC 3440
Meghan Mc Murtry

Chapter 1: An Introduction to Children’s Thinking What is Children’s Thinking  Children’s thinking: the thinking that takes place from the moment of birth through the end of adolescence  Defining what thinking is turns out to be quite difficult, as no boundary divides activities that involving thinking from activities that do not  Thinking involves the higher mental processes: problem solving, reasoning, creating, conceptualizing, remembering, classifying, symbolizing, planning, etc.  Childrens thinking is constantly changing Key Questions about Children’s Thinking:  Are some capabilities innate  Does children’s thinking progress through qualitatively different stages  How do changes in children’s thinking occur  Why do individual children differ so much from each other in their thinking  How does the social world contribute to cognitive development o Researchers who take an information-processing perspective on cognitive development tend to emphasize the issue of how change occurs, whereas researchers who take a sociocultural perspective focus on how the social world contributes to cognitive development o Each other the major theories of cognitive development has something to say about the questions above Are Some Capabilities Innate?  The question of infants’ initial endowment has elicited many speculations o Three of the most prominent come from the associationist perspective, the constructivist perspective and the competent-infant perspective  Associationist perspective: o 1700s-1800s o John Locke, David Hume, John Stuart Mill o They suggest that infants come into the world with only minimal capabilities, primarily the ability to associate experiences with each other o Infants must acquire virtually all capacities and concepts through learning  Constructivist perspective: o Jean Piaget o 1920s-1970s o Suggests that infants are born possessing not only these associative capabilities but also several important perceptual and motor capabilities o Allow very few abilities, they allow infants to explore their environment and to construct increasingly sophisticated concepts and understandings  Competent-infant perspective: o Based on recent research o Suggests that both of the other approaches seriously underestimate infants’ capabilities o Even young infants have a much wider range of perceptual skills and conceptual understandings that had previously been suspected  These capacities allow infants to perceive the world and to classify their experiences along many of the same dimensions that older children and adults use o Infants perspective of distance is more impressive than once suspected o The day after infants are born, they can already perceive which objects are closer and which are farther away  Some degree of distance perception is present even before infants have experience crawling or walking around the environment o Infants possess more knowledge of properties of objects than suspected o By 3 months, infants show some understanding that objects continue to exist even when they move behind other objects and cannot be seen, without support objects will fall, solid objects cannot move through one another o Infants possess general learning mechanisms that help them acquire a wide range of new knowledge, these include:  Imitation: repetitions provide a way for infants to learn new behaviours and also to strengthen their bond with those they imitate  Statistical learning: extracting sequential patterns from input. In their first year, infants are capable of detecting such patterns both in auditory input such as tone sequences or linguistic sounds Does Development Progress Through Stages?  The view development as stage like was in part inspired by the ideas of Charles Darwin 1877  Darwin’s most influential observation was since living things have been on earth, they have evolved through a series of qualitative distinct forms o This suggested that development within a given lifetime also progresses through distinct forms/stages  Associationists compared the developmental process to a building being constructed brick by brick  James Mark Baldwin: a set of plausible stages of intellectual development o Thought children progressed from a sensorimotor stage; sensory observations and motor interactions with physical environment are dominant form of thought, to a quasilogical, a logical, and finally a hyperlogical stage  Piaget: added more than any other individual to our understanding of children’s thinking o He developed the stage notion to a greater extent than Baldwin  Flavell (1971): noted four key implications of the stage concept o Qualitative changes: thinking changes to a different kind o Concurrence assumption: children make the transition from one stage to another on many concepts simultaneously o Abruptness assumption: children move from one stage to the next suddenly rather than gradually o Coherent organization: the child’s understanding is viewed as being organized into a whole  Stage theories depict development as involving qualitative change, occurring simultaneously, suddenly and involving a transition from one way of thinking to another How Does Change Occur  Piaget suggested that the basic mechanisms that produce all cognitive changes are assimilation and accommodation  Assimilation: the process through which people represent experiences in terms of their existing understanding o A 1 year old girl who saw a round candle might think of it as a ball if she knew about balls and not candles  Accommodation: the opposite process; peoples existing understanding is altered by new knowledge o The 1 year old who saw the round candle might notice this ball is different  4 change mechanisms that play role in cognitive development: Automatization, encoding, generaliz
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