The development of brain structures

Pre natal:

  • end of third week- foetus has forebrain, midbrain and hindbrain
  • mid pregnancy- brain connects to all parts of body
  • eight month- rapid brain growth


  • 6 years old- brain is 90% size of adults brain
  • frontal lobes undergo development
  • amount of grey matter in brain peaks at this point
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The development of brain structures


  • grey matter is 'pruned' away
  • pre-frontal cortex is remodelled last
  • may rely on the limbic system to make decisions and solve problems more than adults


  • brain's volume decreases
  • Ventricles expand
  • biggest changes in frontal and temporal lobes
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IQ tests as a measure of intelligence

During WW1 the IQ tests was adapted to screen recruits for the USA army

Someof these were new to America so knew little about the culture and may not have spoken English

Alpha- written test for literate recruits

Beta- seven oart picture completion task, given to illiterate recruits

Third Test- for those who failed Beta test, spoken examination

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IQ tests as a measure of intelligence- Criticisms

Culturally Bias:

  • questions were culturally specific as they required some cultural knowledge
  • affected both reliability and validity as foreginers wouldn't be able to complete the answers due to their lack of American culture
  • White males were therefore seen as more intelligent than minorities

Results were used as evidence that low intelligence people shouldn't be allowed to emigrate to the USA. based on the results, foreigners were prevented from fleeing the Nazis (American 1924 Imiigration Act)

Study ignores those who may not have had access to education

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Piaget- Cognitive Development

Invariant (doesn't change) and universal stages 

Nature over nurture

Assmiliation- when children come across information and add it into an existing schema

Accomodation- when children come across information that they don't already know so have to create a new schema for it

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Sensori-motor stage (0-2 years old)

Bbaies learn about the world thourgh their senses and by moving around and doing things

Object Permanence- 

  • at the start od this stage, the child will not yet understand that things exist without them seeing it
  • At the end of this stage they would have come to the understanding that the object still exists even when they cannot see it
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pre-operational stage (2-7 years old)


  • believe that inanimate objects have feelings and treat their toys as if they were alive


  • lack empathy because they think that everyone sees the world in the same way they do
  • cannot understand that other people may be feeling something different to them


  • unable to think of things in the reverse order
  • unable to understand that you an return something to its orginal state
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Concrete Operational stage (7-11 years)


  • gain ability to conserve (realise that volume, mass or length do not change)


  • able to focus on more than one aspect of a situation
  • able to read as they can put the letters together to make words


  • able to put things in rank order

Linguistic Humour

  • gain ability to use language to make jokes
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Formal operational (11+)

able to demonstrate abstract thinking

think more logically

able to compare and contrast different theories

mentally manipulate ideas

Hypothetical thinking

  • able to think about abstract idea e.g being able to imagine what it was like living in the Victorian Era.
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Piaget- Cognitive Development Criticisms

Too reductionist

  • cognitive development is complex, cannot be reduced to stages by ages
  • should look at other factors that affect cognitive development e.g genetic inheritance, upbringing

Do not allow for individual differences

  • there is evidence that 
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Piaget- study into the conservation of number

How the study was carried out:

  • Piaget predicted that chuldren in concrete operational stage would be able to conserve but children in the pre- operational stage would not
  • Experimental method 
  • IV= age of children used
  • DV= whether they could conserve number or not
  • Independant measures- two groups of children representing each stage
  • Small group of Swiss children, including Piaget's own
  • Each child was shown two rows of indentical parallel counters and asked if there was the same number of counters in each row
  • One of the rows was spread out and the question was asked again
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Piaget- study into the conservation of number

What the study found:

  • children in the pre-operational stage tended to say that there were more counters in the spread out row
  • Children at the end of the pre-operational stage could detect that there was the same number of counters in the spread out row but couldn't justify why
  • Children in the concrete operational stage could detect that the rows had the same amount of counters and they could justify the logic behind it
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Piaget- study into the conservation of number


  • By asking the same question twice the child may have been confused and thought that because they were being asked again then their answer had to change, even if they could conserve
  • Culturally bias as only Swiss children were used. Cognitive development can vary depending on environmental experiences
  • Sample was small so it was hard to generalise it (findings were supposed to apply to all children)
  • Lacked construct validity, there are other ways to show conservation that didn't involve counters (like pouring the same volume of water in a different cup)
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Dweck's mindsets

  • believes that people tend to have one of to mindsets: fixed or growth
  • believes that our mindsets can differ for different subjects
  • believes that a fixed mindset can change into a growth
  • her esearch showed that praise for effort= more success, praise for intelligence= negative views on their abilities
  • This is because it reinforces the iea to fixed mindsets that their intelligence is innate
  • Praise for effort supports and develops gowth mindsets
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Willingham's Theory

  • dislikes learning styles
  • argues that children may be able to learn in a variety
  • says that it helps the student to put meaning behind the learning
  • Drilling information is not helpful for learning
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criticisms for Dweck and Willingham

Focus on Nuture

  • both theories focus on the child's mindsets or their learning in the classroom
  • they ignore factors such as learning disabilities

Over- generalises

  • dismiss certain approaches to learning
  • it may be that certain apporaches match the child well
  • both theories should consider the individual more
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Blackwell et al- study into fixed and growth minds

How it was carried out:

  • researchers believed that the mindsets of students would correlate with their achievement on a maths test
  • Longitudinal Correlational study
  • sample- 373 students from for seventh grade classes, public secondary school in New York
  • Sample was varied based on ethnicity, social economic backgrounds and achievement
  • Participants and their parents gave informned consent and were aware of their ability to witthdraw
  • at start of seventh grade, students completed motivational questionnaire
  • questionnaire used rating scale to measure students' theory of intelligence
  • scores from maths test were taken in seventh and eigth grade were compared to scores from sixth grade test to measure progress
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Blackwell et al- study into fixed and growth minds

What the study found:

  • no significant correlation between theory of intelligence and maths test scores at teh start of seventh grade
  • mindset became predictor of maths achievement when they took the test in the seventh and eighth grade
  • concluded that students with growth mindsets made a greater improvement in their maths scores compared to those with a fixed mindset
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Blackwell et al- study into fixed and growth minds

How the research was carried out:

  • students with growth mindset would show more motivation in class
  • correlation study with experimental section
  • IV= intervention group or control group
  • DV= levels of motivation and achievement on a maths test
  • Independnt measures design
  • Sample- 99 students, seventh grade, public secondary school, New york
  • Completed motivational questionnaire
  • Students were randomly assigned to the intervention or control group
  • Intervention group taught that learning changes the brain
  • Control group were taught about memory
  • At end of eight weeks, students completed questionnaire again and took a test on what they could recall
  • Teachers were asked to comment on changes to motivational behaviour 
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Blackwell et al- study into fixed and growth minds

What the study found:

  • test showed no difference between content learned from workshops, but intervention group showed higher recall of theory they had learned
  • questionnaire showed that intervention group had more motivation 
  • intervention group scored higher on maths test 
  • concluded that teaching the students that intelligence is flexible has positive effect on their motivation and learning
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Blackwell et al - studies crtiticisms

Culturally Bias

  • Took part in one area of USA
  • Other states or countries may have different education systems which may effect growth mindsets

Age Bias

  • all seventh graders
  • growth mindsets may have different impacts on children of different ages
  • Cannot apply findings to other ages

Ungeneralisable to other subjects

  • research only concentrated on maths scores
  • cannot say that growth mindsets influence the learning of other subjects the same way
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