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Chapter 9

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Mark Schmuckler

Chapter 9- Cognitive Development: The Information- Processing Approach 11/7/2012 1:13:00 PM  Based on approaches to cognitive development; originated in study of adult cognition  Information-processing approaches- a perspective on cognition and cognitive development in which the human mind is likened to a computer, processing information from the environment through perception and attention (input), encoding it in memory (storage and retrieval), and applying information to the solution of problems (software)  Human thinkers able to become more cognitively skilled through changes in their brains and sensory systems (hardware) and in the rules and strategies of thinking (software) that they learn over the course of development  Primary quality of human cognition system is flexibility to consider broad range of factors but result in 2 limitations: o Amount information that can be processed at a time o Speed with which it can process Basic Assumptions of the Information-Processing Approach  4 assumptions that form the basis of an information-processing perspective:  1. Thinking is information processing o mental activity involves taking information into the mind and operating on it in ways that make it usable  2. There are mechanisms or processes of change that underlie the processing of information o 4 key mechanisms: encoding, strategy construction, automatization, and generalization  3. Cognitive development is a self-modifying process o use strategies acquired from past problem solutions to modify response to new problem  4. Careful task analysis is crucial o task or problem situation itself influences the child’s cognitive performance o often involves error analysis (attending to the errors children make) enlightening about development when errors consistent across same age group o microgenetic analysis- method that involves very detailed examination of how a child solves a problem over a single learning episode or over several episodes that occur close in time Information-Processing Models The Multi-Store Model  A model of information processing in which information is depicted as moving through a series of processing units—sensory register, short-term memory, and long-term memory—in each of which it may be stored, either fleetingly or permanently st  1 step: acquire info from environment through the sensory register o information stored in original form in sensory register o storage very brief o this sensory capacity changes little over development  but there is evidence that auditory sensory storage does change across infancy and childhood nd  2 step: information in sensory register encoded into mental representation then placed in short- term memory/ working memory o limited in number of meaningful units of info can hold at a time o without specific effort, lose information within 15-30 sec o functional value: allows us to respond to rather continuous flow of incoming information o improves with age o long-term memory- knowledge retained over a long period of time  information can be retained for an indefinite period of time connectionist models  in this approach, information is described as an elaborate set of neural connections and thinking involves processing of information as it spreads throughout the network (aka parallel distributed processing) o interested in:  how neural connections organized  how they change through development  how different connections are activated as child thinks and solves problems Neo-Piagetian information processing models  Neo-Piagetian theories integrate Piaget’s ideas with that of an information-processing perspective  Stage-like development of cognition described by Piaget is based on improvements in memory capacity and executive control, two features of an information processing system (Case, 1992, 1998)  Executive control structure- mental blueprint or plan for solving a class of problems. Has three components: o Representation of the problem o Representation of the goal of the problem o Representation of a strategy for attaining the goal  Theory can be used to account for many different aspects of development that neither theory can adequately explain alone Cognitive Processes  Mechanisms or ways that the human mental system operates on information  Information-processing perspective focus on gradual and quantitative changes in mental functioning  4 cognitive processes that change with development: 1. encoding- transformation of information from the environment into a lasting mental representation  efficient crucial info obtained; inefficient critical information lost mental representation- information stored mentally in some form in the cognitive system after the person has encountered it in the environment (i.e. script)  depends on child’s understanding that one thing can stand for another thing 2. Strategies- conscious cognitive or behavioural activities that are used to enhance mental performance (i.e. count all or min rule if adding 3+14 younger children use count all so start from 3 and count up to number of second term but older children use min rule thus start from 14 add 3 next terms)  main purpose: decrease the load on child’s information-processing system by increasing the efficiency of each process and thus free up space for various tasks necessary for solving the problem 3. automatization- making behaviours that once were conscious and controlled into unconscious and automatic ones 4. generalization- application of a strategy learned while solving problem in one situation to a similar problem in new situation  children need to gain familiarity with the use of a rule executive control process- guides the child in the selection and use of such strategies  change in prefrontal cortex central to the development of the executive control process  over the years, shows dramatic development  child’s knowledge base (familiarity with the domain or type of problem he is trying to solve) plays a major role in his abilities to process information and solve problems o study (Michelene Chi,1978) tested ability to recall either set of numbers or chess-piece positions in adults and children  results: adult better at recalling numbers but surpassed adults in recalling chess- piece positions  concluded children’s knowledge of chess played important role in memory performance and adults superiority in recalling numbers may have reflected greater familiarity with them o expertise can enhance cognitive processing in children in a familiar domain but this expertise does not influence performance in other domains (this challenges stage-like views of cognitive development) attention- the identification and selection of particular sensory input for more detailed processing  changes substantially with development: young have difficulty controlling attention but control increases as they develop  b/n 2 and 3 months focus of attention shifts from external contours of objects toward the internal features  9 months use of attention to solve simple problems (ie. get toy from behind barrier)  over first few years of life duration of attention increases and distractibility decreases  when activity fully engages attention, child as young as 42 months may be less distractible  some research (Turnure 1970) found that preschool and school age children sometimes do better in performance of a task with distractions  other research suggest that older school age children perform better on learning tasks when there are visual or auditory distracters present than when they are not selective attention- focus on the relevant aspects of the environment and ignore the irrelevant features  by 2-3 months infant begins to select what to look at based more on the form or pattern of the information  this ability increases and enhances children’s ability to learn as child gets older  study (Miller & Seier, 1994) children study boxes where objects were placed to help remember location of objects. Household objects and a picture of house on the box and animal objects had a picture of cage on the box o older children used more selective search strategies whereas younger children used more exhaustive methods  strategy effectiveness is well predicted by other measures of memory capacity as well  processing of relevant info increases steadily through elementary and high school years  processing of irrelevant info increases slightly until age 11-12 then decreases rapidly planning- deliberate organization of a sequence of actions oriented toward achieving a goals  study by Elaine Vurpillot (1968) illustrated coordination of attention and planning using drawing of houses and asked child to compare houses to see if identical (each house has 6 different windows which either correspond to the next house or does not) o found that younger children far less likely than older children to apply systematic plan to get necessary info (looked at windows randomly) o when task embedded in engaging story context, children able to attend to appropriate contextual information and plan their solution more effectively  preschoolers still have difficult because less able to inhibit or suspend action during activity (critical to planning)  planning often done in social situations social and cognitive development closely linked  sharing responsibility for carrying a task helps children understand the problem from the perspective of another person memory  term memory and knowledge interchangeable  short-term memory is the conscious area of memory  long-term memory encompasses: o semantic memory- all world knowledge and facts a person possesses o episodic memory- knowledge of specific events  act of remembering either intentional or unintentional o unintentional form rarely necessary to exert effort o intentional (explicit memory) requires effort to store and retrieve  3 areas of memory that improve with development 1. basic capacities- all related to each other and have an impact on effectiveness of working memory  memory span- amount of information that a person can keep in short-term memory; limited which changes with development o Juan Oascual-Leone argues memory increases over time (actual changes in the brain improves basic memory capability) but others argue no solid evidence for capacity change o Another explanation for greater memory span may be use of one or more strategies that help organize such info in a way that facilitates remembering  World knowledge with increases with age enables ability to chunk  Processing efficiency o With practice some memory processing becomes automatic result: space in working memory becomes available to work on other problems or strategies o Robbie Case proposes executive processing space (memory system) becomes more efficient  Increasing efficiency from 2 factors:  Streamlining of executive control structures(result of strategies)  Biological maturation  Processing speed o Often assessed by reaction time o Connected with processing efficiency o Kali demonstrated that speed of processing increases linearly with age from childhood to early adulthood o Developmental changes in processing speed similar for tasks that are very different from one another o suggests that change in processing speed is fundamental aspect of cognitive development (and not simply due to practice) o Kali and Park (1994) found same relation b/n processing speed and age in Korean children and North American children suggests may be a universal development process 2. Memory Strategies- deliberate procedures that help people carry out memory-related tasks  some of these involve external support (i.e. note taking) and others purely mental  adults commonly use 3 memory strategies: rehearsal, organization, elaboration  children often use more than one strategies at a time (even grade 2s)  rehearsal- repeat info to be remembered either mentally or out loud o classic study by John Flavell asked children to remember sequence of pictures; results: found that children who used spontaneous rehearsal had better memory for the pictures o also fund that the use of such rehearsal increased dramatically with age o later research found style of rehearsal explains the age differences in performance  more cumulative rehearsal strategy for effective in aiding memory of items in a list  younger children can be trained to use this  organization- process of imposing an order on the information to be remembered using categories and hierarchical relations o able to teach children as young as 7 to use this strategy (i.e. categorization) o children’s engagement in a task can also influence use of this strategy o study (Guttentag 1995) presented grade 3s with pictures of common objects to be recalled (25 pics in 5 categories) to explore active participation (place picture themselves) related to use of organizational strategy  found active participation led to children to use these strategies and thereby facilitated their recall  elaboration- memory strategy in which one adds to info to make it more meaningful and this easier to place in long-term memory o simply inducing children to form elaboration can influence their memory  why young children fail to use strategies:  mediation deficiency- inability to use strategies to store info in long-term storage  production deficiency- inability to general and use these strategies spontaneously  utilization deficiency- may produce appropriate strategy spontaneously but unable to profit from using it o when strategy is newer and less practiced skill, using strategy may consume much mental effort 3. World knowledge- what child has learned from experience and knows about the world in general  children obtain in many ways: own experiences, formal or informal instructions, or via info from their society and family  influences their memory abilities  memory tasks draw on children’s knowledge base  Rogoff and Waddell presented 9 year old Mayan and North American children with memory task watch 20 familiar objects placed in a model of town that contained familiar landmarks then recreate display seen prepared o Mayan children performed better: North American children use strategy of rehearsal (best suited for memorizing unrelated list of objects) but Mayan children reply on look of the display so used spatial relations of the objects to organize their memory  Another study: Mistry et al. enlisted help of parents of group of 4 years olds o “lab” condition parent presents 10 pictures of lunch-related items and child must repeat items to experimenter o “lunch” condition parents told child making lunch bag and needed ingredients from “grocer” (experimenter) o on average lab condition recalled 2.7 items whereas lunch condition 5.3 items clear meaningful foal for activity is important in remembering  findings echo Vygotsky’s view that memory in everyday life occurs in the course of meaningful, goal-directed activities  meaningfulness may not always elicit optimal remembering in children (i.e. children in courtroom) o research indicated suggestion by others, especially adults, as well as distinctiveness of their memories strongly influence a young child’s reporting of past events o young children more often affected by inaccurate info than are older children o Steve Ceci and Maggie Bruck engaged preschoolers in activity of “Simon Says”. Month later interviewer talked to each child but they were either accurately or inaccurately informed about activities  Found that younger the child, more likely to be influenced by false information o Carole Peterson et al. examined 30-, 36-, 48-month old infant’s memories for injuries first interview asked to tell experimenter what happened  6 months later children interviewed again using same procedure found that a t all ages, significant number of children made intrusion errors; also those who made such intrusions recalled same amount of correct info as children without intrusion errors  also found that format of questions has impact on recall poorer recall in yes/no format questions as oppose to wh- questions  also found that parents who were more elaborative in discussing incidents with children had children who remembered more of the event during initial interview and up to 2 years later o research reviewed also tells us about children’s cognitive and social development  narrative form- temporally sequenced account that conveys meaning about an event o even short narrative may have deep meaning or value for child defines individual’s own history o this history shaped by other people who inform child about what aspects of his memory are interesting or important to remember  even these interpretations of others may bec
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