Development of the Child's Understanding of Others

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Perspective Taking

Perspective taking is when a child understands that others have a different percpetive to their own. Piaget's 3 Mountain Task tests this.

Flavell et al (1990)

There are two levels of ability in perspective taking.

  • Level one (2-3 years)
    • They know that another person experiences things differently
    • They can decentre themselves in regards to perceptual issues
  • Level two (4-5 years)
    • They develop more complex rules for working out what someone is able to see or experience
    • They can decentre themselves in regards to cognition and emotions.

False-Belief tasks are used to test these levels. Flavell's ages for stage 1 are far younger than Piaget's 3 Mountain Task found.

Piaget's questioning had issues and historical bias.

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Selman's theory of perspective taking

'Holly is 8 years old and likes to climb trees. Her father sees her fall out of one and although she is not hurt, he makes her promise not to climb anymore trees. Later that day, Holly is playing with her friend Sean when his kitten gets stuck up a tree. Holly is the only one who can do something immediately or the kitten may be hurt.'

Selman wanted to know what children and adolescents would react in regards to the situation and asked them a range of questions including:

  • Does Holly know how Sean feels about the kitten?
  • How will Holly think her father will react/feel when he finds out she climbed another tree?
  • What does Holly think her father will do when he finds out she climbed a tree after promising she wouldn't?

The answers to these questions allowed Selman to create a five-stage model of perspective taking. It is similar to Kohlberg's stages of moral development.

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Selman's Stages (1)

  • Stage 0 (3-5 years)
    • Egocentric viewpoint
      • Some differentiation between self and others
      • Fails to differentiate between social perspective (thoughts and feelings)
  • Stage 1 (6-8 years)
    • Social-Informational perspective taking
      • Is aware other's have their own social perspective that may differ from their own
      • Tends to focus on one viewpoint rather than coordinating ones
  • Stage 2 (8-10 years)
    • Self-Reflective perspective taking
      • Is aware that everyone knows that everyone has their own views
      • Can put themselves into others' shoes
      • Stuggles with abstract concepts
      • Cannot focus on all factors simultaneously 
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Selman's Stages (2)

  • Stage 3 (10-12 years)
    • Mutual perspective taking
      • Realises that both themselves and others view each other as separate and simultaneous subjects
      • Can explain belief systems and view things from a third perspective
  • Stage 4 (12-15 years)
    • Social and Conventional System perspective taking
      • Realises mutual perspective taking doesn't always lead to understanding
      • Social conventions are necessary as they are understood by all members of the group
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