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Chapter 7

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Rutgers University
Margaret Ingate

Chapter 7: Conceptual Development  Introduction o Concepts: general ideas or understandings that can be used to group together objects, events, qualities, or abstractions that are similar in some way.  Allow us to generalize from prior experience  Tell us how to react emotionally to new experiences o Two groups of fundamental concepts  Used to categorize the kinds of things that exist in the world: people, living things, inanimate objects.  Dimensions used to represent our experiences: space (where it occurred), time (when it occurred), causality (why it occurred) and number (how many times it occurred) o Focuses on the first 5 years.  Understanding Who or What o Dividing Objects into Categories  3 types:  Inanimate objects  People  Living things  Category hierarchy: categories that are related by set-subset relations, such as animal/dog/poodle  Categorization of Objects in Infancy  Infants and cats- recognize different types are still a cat  Perceptual categorization: the grouping together of objects with similar appearances.  Categorization of Objects Beyond Infancy  Category Hierarchies o Superordinate level: the most general level within a category hierarchy, such as “animal” in the animal/dog/poodle example o Subordinate level: the most specific level within a category hierarchy, such as “poodle” in the animal/dog/poodle example o Basic level: the middle level, and often the first level learned, within a category hierarchy, such as “dog” in the animal/dog/poodle example  Casual understanding and categorization o Understanding cause-effect relations helps children learn and remember new categories o Knowledge of Other People and Oneself  Naïve psychology: a commonsense level of understanding of other people and oneself  Desires and beliefs  3 properties of concepts: o Refer to invisible mental states o Concepts are all linked to each other in cause-effect relations o They develop early in life  Infants’ Naïve Psychology  Infants find people interesting, pay careful attention to them, and learn an impressive amount about them in the first year  Important aspects of psychological understanding that emerge late in the first year and early in the second o Understanding of intention: the desire to act in a certain way o Joint attention: which two or more people focus intentionally on the same referent o Inter-subjectivity: the mutual understanding that people share during communication  Development Beyond Infancy  The Growth of a theory of mind o Theory of mind: a basic understanding of how the mind works and how it influences behavior o Understanding the connection between other people’s desires and their actions- emerges by the end of the first year o Children (2 years) predict that characters in stories will act in accord with their own desires, even when those desires differ from the child’s wishes o False-belief problems: tasks that test a child’s understanding that other people will act in accord with their own beliefs even when the child knows that those beliefs are incorrect.  Explaining the development of theory of mind o Theory of mind module (TOMM): a hypothesized brain mechanism devoted to understanding other human beings o Children who have siblings outperform peers who do not, on false- belief tasks  The Growth of Play o Pretend play: (18 months)make-believe activities in which children create new symbolic relations; ex. Using a broom to represent a horse o Object substitution: a form of pretense in which an object is used as something other than itself o Sociodramatic play (30 months): activities in which children enact minidramas with other children or adults, such as “ mother comforting baby” o Scaffolding during play provides children with opportunities for learning, in particular for improving their story telling skills. o The quantity of young children’s pretend play is related to their understanding of other people’s psychological functioning. o Social pretend play is more strongly related to understanding other people’s thinking than is nonsocial pretend play. o Knowledge of Living Things  Distinguishing Living from Nonliving Things  Infants in their first year distinguish people from other animals and that they distinguish both from inanimate objects.  Understanding Biological Processes  3-4 year olds recognize that desires influence what people do, they also recognize that there are biological processes that are independent of one’s desires.  Recognize that properties of living things often serve important functions for the organism  Inheritance o Essentialism: the view that living things have an essence inside them that makes them what they are  This essence is what makes all members of the category similar to each other.  Growth, illness, and healing o Realize growth is a product of internal processes  Plants and animals become bigger and more complex over time due to something going on inside them o Have a basic understanding of illness  Heard of germs and have a sense of how they operate o Know that plants and animals, unlike inanimate objects, have internal processes that often allow them to regain prior states or attributes.  How do Children Acquire Biological Knowledge?  Nativists propose that humans are born with a “biology module” similar to TOMM o Helps children learn quickly about living things o Support with 3 arguments:  During earlier periods of evolution, it was crucial for human survival that children learn quickly about animals and plants  Children throughout the world are fascinated by plants a
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