PSYA3: Cognition and Development


PTCD: Mechanisms underlying Piaget's developmental

  • Assimilation: The process of fitting new information and experiences into exisiting schemas (i.e. into what a child already knows and understands)
  • Accommodation: The process of modifying an existing schema by expanding it or creating a new one when new information, a new object or a new situation cannot be assimilated into the original schema.
  • Equilibration: The intellect strives to maintain a sense of balance. If an experience cannot be assimilated into existing schemas, a sense of imbalance arises (disequilibrium)
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PTCD: Sensorimotor and pre-operational stages

  • Sensorimotor stage (0-2 years): Infants use their reflexes to manipulate and explore objects. Movements are un-coordinated at this stage. Knowledge of the world develops through their sensory and motor abilities. Between 12-18 months, the young child begins to understand the properties and permenance of objects (object permanance).
  • Pre-operational stage (2-6 years): Children use language to represent objects, although their understanding of concepts is general. Although they can perform simple classification tasks, their understanding of the world is limited to their own perspective (egocentrism).
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PTCD: Three mountains task

  • Piaget and Inhelder (1956) used the three mountains task, which they developed during the 1940's, to investigate children's representation of the world.
  • The three-dimensional model could be distinguished because there was a distinctive feature on the top of each (snow on top of one; cross of top of another and house on the third)
  • A toy doll was placed in a no of different viewing positions and in turn, the child was invited to study the model carefully and work out what the doll would be able to see from each position.
  • After each trial the child was shown a series photographs from different scenes, including the corerct one, and asked to select which photo showed what the doll would be able to see.
  • Children under the age of 7 (i.e at the pre-operational stage) typically indicated that the doll's view would be the same as their own viewpoint, irrespective of where the doll was placed (i.e. they provided an egocentric response).
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PTCD: Hughes policeman task

  • Hughes' task involved a model with two intersecting walls that formed a cross and two dolls - one doll representing a policeman and the other a little boy.
  • The policeman was positioned so he could see the two areas marked B + D, but the areas A and C were hidden by the wall.
  • Firstly, the doll was placed in area A and the child was asked if the policeman could see the boy there.
  • The question was subsequently repeated for areas B, C and D. Policeman was then placed on the opposite side. Child was asked to hide the boy doll so that the policeman could not see him.
  • Children made very few errors and when a child did make a mistake, the error was explained and the question repeated until the correct answer was given.
  • After this initial session, actual test was introduced with two policeman. Required child to understand two perspectives.
  • Hughes reported that 90% of the responses were correct for a sample of 30 children between 3-5. Even the 10 youngest children (mean age of 3yrs 9m) achieved an 88% success rate.
  • Hughes carried out further trials, using more intersecting walls to create 5 and 6 areas in the model and introduced a 3rd policeman. Although the 3yr olds found this more difficult, they still responded correctly on about 60% of the trials and the 4yr oldss achieved a 90% success rate.
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PTCD: Donaldson, Rose and Blank (Demand characteri

  • Donaldson: Suggested that the egocentric responses reported by Piaget may be explained by the fact that the children did not fully understand what they were supposed to do (and it also involved left-right reversals which some adults find difficult).
  • Rose and Blank: Criticized the test Piaget used in his conservation studies and suggested that asking the same question twice may have confused the younger children. This demand characteristic may have led the children to respond in a predictable way.
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PTCD: Concrete and formal operational stage

  • Concrete operational stage (7-11 yrs): Children now use logical mental rules and can understand ordering and class inclusion, but only in the context of concrete information and not in relation to abstract ideas.
  • Formal operational stage (12yrs+): Young people now capable of systematic, abstract reasoning and can now deal with hypothetical problems. They have a better understanding of the world and are now able to develop their own theories about the world which they test in an organised way. They explore all logical possibilities.
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PTCD: Key mental processes during concrete operati

The key mental processes involved within the concrete operational stage were outlined in Piaget's conservation task.

  • The task Piaget used to investigate conservation of volume involved pouring a set volume of water from a glass that was short and wide to another glass that was tall and thin.
  • The researcher would pour the set volume of water into two identical small glasses in front of the child.
  • The child would watch as this occurs; the tall glass appears to have more water.
  • Child is then asked which glass contained more water, and since the volume of water remains the same, the childs answer should have been that there is no difference between the two glasses.
  • However, Piaget consistently found that children in the pre-operational stage would indicate the tall glass contained more water; over 2/3 of the pre-operational children tested got the answer to this question wrong.
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PTCD: Evaluation of Piaget's methods

  • Bower and Wishart: Showed object to infant between 1-4m, and just as the infant reached for it, the light was turned off. An infra-red camera was used to observe the infant who continued to reach for the object, even though it could no longer see it.
  • Samuel and Bryant: Large scale study involving four age groups (5,6,7 and 8yr olds), three conservation tasks and three ways of presenting the tests. Children performed significantly better when only one judgement was required, supporting the findings of Rose and Blank.
  • Piaget's theory provides a detailed description of children's thinking, backed by some empirical evidence.
  • Piaget was better at describing processes underpinning cognitive development than explaining how these processes operated.
  • Although the testing methods were innovative, his results can only be replicated if the researcher sticks precisely to the detailed design of the standard Piagetan tasks. If they are modified to make them more meaningful, children can usually complete them successfully at an earlier age (E.g. Hughes' 1975)
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PTCD: Evaluation of Piaget's claims of universalit

  • The formal operational stage may not be universally achieved as claimed by Piaget: Dasen (1994) reported that only 1/3 of adults reach this stage. Piaget's assumption that everyone achieves this final abstract level of reasoning may reflect his own experience of studying intelligent individuals (used of biased samples).
  • Timetable of development has been criticized for being overally prescriptive: Although a valid criticism, Piaget's theory is not only concerned with age boundaries, but rather is about identifying universal cognitive changes that are biologically regulated during development. This is supported by cross cultural research (Dasen 1977).
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PIOE: Piaget and the Plowden report

  • In the 1960's, the Plowden Report recommended that primary education should move from being teacher-led to being child-centred, based on Piaget's view that children have an inbuilt tendency to learn about aspects of the real world that are waiting to be discovered.
  • Role of educator is not to teach, but to provide opportunities for children to explore and learn about their world for themselves through discovery; known as discovery learning.
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PIOE: Piaget on maturaton and readiness to learn

  • Assumes that maturation is important, as well as actively engaging with the environment.
  • Stages are age based; concept of readniess is important and it made no sense to try and speed up the process - these stages were assumed to be invariant and children would progress to the next stage when their brain had matured sufficiently to enable this to occur.
  • According to Piaget, cognitive growth can be encouraged through experience that children can become involved and apply their own level of thinking abilities to make sense of it.
  • Therefore educationalists should encourage the development of children's thinking skills specific to their stage of cognitive development (i.e. child centred).
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PIOE: Piaget and suitability of the curriculum

  • By drawing on Piaget's descriptions of what children of different ages and stages can do, educationalists can use these guidelines as an indication of the suitability of curriculum content.
  • Children can then feel motivated to engage in tasks, knowing that they were solvable and more specifically that they can solve them.
  • Activities that are too challenging will inhibit their motivation to engage.
  • Classroom activities should enable processes of assimilation and accommodation to occur through the play activities and the discovery learning and activity-based work used in nursery and through practical lab projects.
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PIOE: Role of the teacher

  • Teachers should focus on process of learning. Active interaction and engagement are important.
  • Child's level of development is important - encouraged to engage in activities to reflect their level of readiness and stage of devel.
  • New understanding should be built on existing schemas and it is important to achieve a balance between accomodation and assimilation. Needs to be sufficient challenge to encourage some disequilibrium and the creation of new schemas through accommodation.
  • A teacher should change learning strategy if a particular approach does not appear to be working.
  • Abstract concepts should initially be introduced through the use of concrete example, particuarly with children at the concrete operational stage.
  • Teachers can encourage intellectual development through open discussion of themes. However, Piaget did not agree with Bruner that language training can be used to speed up cognitive learning.
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VTOCD: Influence of culture

  • Culture and social interaction are key determinants of development and that in order to understand a child it is necessary to understand the child's background and surroundings.
  • Cultural context affects the child's immediate social environment and leads to the development of higher mental functions which shape language and make thought possible.
  • Believed that cultural influences are required to transform the elementary mental functions of attention, sensation and perception into more sophisticated higher functions.
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VTOCD: Zone of proximal development

  • ZPD defines those functions that have not yet matured but are in the process of maturation, functions that will mature tomorrow but are currently in an embryonic state
  • An individual's potential can only be achieved with the support and guidance of others.
  • Assisted performance defines what a child can do with the support and guidance of a more knowledgeable other
  • Ideally, this person is sensitive to the learner's current capabilities and able to guide the learner through the ZPD
  • Concept of the ZPD implies that human potential is limited by the quality of social interaction and that virtually any problem can be solved, as long as we have access to a MKO. 
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VTOCD: Freund on the role of guided learning

  • Children were asked to place a miniature items of furniture in particular rooms of a doll's house.
  • Some of the children did something similar with their mothers before attempting the task on their own, while others worked on it alone.
  • Those who had previously worked with their mother showed greater improvement compared with their first attempt at the task.
  • This suggests that guided learning within the ZPD can lead to a better understanding than working alone. 
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VTOCD: Role of language and semotics

Semiotic mediation

Process of cognitive development is mediated by language and other cultural symbols (semiotics). The symbols act as a medium through which knowledge can be transmitted from others to the child. Use of these symbols transforms the child's elementary abilities into more sophisticated, higher cognitive abilities. Semiotic mediation is a social process.

Role of language

  • Primary form of social interaction through which adults transmit the rich body of knowledge to children. 
  • Acquisition of language is crucial for CD and was interested in the rel between lang and thought; set of developmental stages
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VTOCD: Development of thinking

Development of thinking Vgotsky proposed four stages in the process of concept formation based on research evidence.  1. Vague syncretic stage: Trial and error without understanding (random strategies) 2. Complex stage: Some appropriate strategies are used but the main attributes are not identified. 3.Potential concept stage: Only one attribute (feature) can be dealt with at a time. 4. Mature concept stage: The child is able to deal with several attributes simultaneously.

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VTOCD: Bruner on scaffolding

  • Bruner and colleagues wrote a paper of the role of tutoring in problem-solving in which the concept of scaffolding is suggested as one of the key roles of a teacher (Wood)
  • Although scaffolding has become closely associated with Vgotsky's concept of the ZPD, it was first proposed many years after his death by Wood, Bruner and Ross who built of Vgotsky's original ideas.
  • Bruner saw the term 'scaffolding' as a temporary support structure, involving constant adjustments made in response to a child's progress.
  • Support is gradually reduced as a child' mastery of a given task increases.
  • Bruner believed that the fundamental social agents for development of cognition in children are mothers and other care givers who provide much of the social interaction during the early years.
  • During social interaction, children recieve instruction and guidance (scaffolding) on how to understand, make sense of and test hypothesis about the world they see and experience.
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VTOCD: Evaluation

  • Relationship between cognitive development and learning - Vgotsky's account of the relationship between cognitive development and learning acknowledges individual differences within the same culture and also people between different cultures.
  • Vgotsky's ideas became influential because they addressed the role of social factors in CD which Piaget overlooked.
  • Part of the reason for lack of research is that his theory focuses on the process of CD that is more difficult to investigate than the outcome. Since empirical support for Vygotsky's theory has been fairly limited, there is also relatively little critique of his ideas.
  • ZPD is crucial in making Piagetian tasks understandable to the child, which was demonstrated when Hughes and Donaldson made the tasks more child friendly by providing a familiar social context.
  • Theory may over-emphasize the importance of social influences and underemphasize biological and individual factors in CD. If social influence alone were necessary for CD, we would expect learning to occur faster than it usually does. The fact that is does not might suggest there must be a biological element determining brain maturation.
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VIOE: Vgotsky, Tharp and Gallimore on education

  • Tharp and Gallimore: proposed a definition of teaching based on Vgotsky's concept of the ZPD.
  • 'Teaching consists in assisting performance through the ZPD'/
  • Teaching can be said to occur when assistance is offered at points in the ZPD at which performance requires assistance.
  • According to Vgotsky, the teacher's role is to lead by sharing their expertise and knowledge, clarifying any difficulties in understanding displayed by learners and shaping children's thinking.
  • He believed that the language the adult used was key in this important interactive process and also play,' which creates its own ZPD of the child'.
  • In play a child is always above his average age, above his daily behaviour; in play it is as though he was a head taller than himself'.
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VIOE: Vgotsky and Bruner on peer tutoring

  • Peer tutoring is based on Vgotsky's notion of assisting learning by focusing on tasks within a child's ZPD and involves a more competent learner to guide their learning.
  • This method is used when young people/adult students share information about a topic they have studied with other students.
  • Teacher merely listens but will step in to clarify any material that is difficult to comprehend or that is not explained clearly by the presenting student.
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VIOE: Slavin on collab group work

  • Slavin noticed how important motivation and intergroup competition is in the learning process.
  • As a group, students will delegate tasks, discuss concepts and share information.
  • Different ideas may be suggested, which other might not have thought of, so new information is shared, discussed and learned.
  • All this takes place within the ZPD of the group members. 
  • This method can help the weaker students whose understanding might be limited and who, through the group process of engagement, will be motivated to understand the views of other group members.
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KTOMR: Piaget on morality and 15 cups

  • Heteronymous morality - characterised by the childs belief that the rules have their own innate authority, rules are concrete. Children are motivated by a fear of punishment. Piaget believes that this kind of relaiton to the rules is a result of the child's relation to people in positions of authority. Adults are in a position of power; children know and follow their rules; mode of relating to these rules becomes one of grasping what is given, and using it as their own.
  • Autonomous morality - Stage begins around the age of 10. Characterised by the childs understanding that rules are made by people, for people. Motivated by the spirit of cooperation, tries to take into account the needs, wants, and feelings of others. Develops out of cooperative activity between peers in equal relationship
  • 15 cups: John called to dinner; behind the door is a tray with 15 cups standing on a chai; John would not have known that there was all this behind the door; goes in, door knocks against the tray, and all the cups topple over.
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KTOMR: Kohlberg on the stages of moral reasoning.

  • Stage one: Punishment and obedience orientation: Rightness/wrongness of an action is judged on it's consequences - behaviour that leads to punishment is wrong and good behaviour that is associated with avoiding punishment
  • Stage two: Individualism: Children do things that are rewarded in their best interests. Begin to realise that there are usually 2 sides to every story. Since everything is relative, an individual may persue their own needs and self-interest.Reasoning at this stage may involve exchanging favours and doing deals.Focuses of individual rather than a part of a wider comunity.
  • Stage 3, Conformity: Enters in teen years; conform by behaving in ways considered to be 'good' which please or help others and live up to their expectations. Good behaviour includes good intentions, empathy and concern for others. Intentions behind actions. 
  • Stage 4, Social system and conscience: Individuals more socially aware and community orientated; consider the possible effect of behaviour of wider society. Reasoning tends to focus on doing one's duty, obeying laws and respecting authority.
  • Stage 5, Social contract: Interested in rights and values that a fair and egilitarian society holds; emphasis shifts from maintaining status quo of society (rights, justice and values)
  • Stage 6: Principles of justice must be universal and should apply to all. Laws should not only favour the majority.
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KTOMR: Kohlberg applied to Heinz

  • Stage one (obedience: Heinz should not steal the medicine because he will consequently be put in prison which will mean that he is a bad person. Or: Heinz should steal the medicine because it is only worth $20k and how how much the druggist wanted for it; Heinz offered to pay for it and was not stealing anything else.
  • Stage two (self-interest): Heinz should steal the medicine because he will be much happier if he saves his wife, even if he will have to serve a prison sentence. Or: Heinz should not steal it because prison is an awful place, and he would more likely languish in a jail cell than over his wifes death.
  • Stage three (conformity): Heinz should steal the medicine because his wife expects it; he wants to be a good husband. Or: Should not steal because stealing is bad and he is not a criminal; he has tried to do everything he can without breaking the law, you cannot blame him.
  • Stage 4 (law and order): Heinz should not steal the medicine because the law prohibits stealing, making it illegal/actions have consequences.
  • Stage 5 (human rights): Should steal because everyone has a right to choose life, regardless of the law. Should not because the scientist has a right to fair compensation.
  • Stage 6 (universal rights): Heinz should steal the medicine, because saving a human life is a more fundamental value than the property rights of another person. Heinz should not steal because others may need the meds just as badly/lives are equally significant.
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KTOMR: Gilligan on gender bias

  • Studies are androcentric - based solely on the study of men, so his theory reflects a male approach to moral understanding.
  • Gilligan approached morality in the 'ethics of care' - interviewed 20 women who were facing the real-life dilemma of an abortion
  • Presented her findings in a stage theory of moral development which is quite different to Kohlberg's theory.
  • Difference may be explained by the fact that Gilligan's participants were women.
  • Gilligan claims that women have a different moral voice from men and make judgements using different criteria, such as compassion and interpersonal issues, rather than justice and logic.
  • Gilligan is therefore challenging some of the fundamental assumptions of Kohlberg's theory. 
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KTOMR: Eckensburger, Kolhberg and Colby on the no

  • Colby and Kohlberg carried out a more careful analysis of Kohlberg's original data - only 15% reached stage 5 and there was very little evidence of stage 6 judgements.
  • Judgements in stage 6 may only be found in a very small number of exceptional individuals, such as MLK or Gandhi, and only in certain areas of their lives.
  • The universal and ethical principles associated with stage 6 appear not to be universal (Eckensburger); instead they may represent an ideal moral disposition that is rarely achieved.
  • There is, however, extensive empirical support for the 1st 4 stages of moral development.

Cross-cultural studies:

  • Snarey carried out a meta-analysis of 44 c-c studies conducted in 27 countries and all 44 studies reported a progression from stages 1-4 at similar ages.
  • Very few studies showed evidence of stage 5 - tended to be in urban areas.
  • Eckensburger's review of over 50 studies also supported the invariant progression of stages.
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KTOMR: Santrock, Hartshorne and May

  • Criticized for his emphasis on moral though rather than moral behaviour (Walker)
  • Hartshorne and May (1928): Studied moral knowledge of children between 6-14, observed their behaviour in situations where there was an opportunity  to be either obedient or disobedient.
  • They found that most children were honest in some situations and not in others; their behaviour appeared likely that the children would get caught.
  • Santrock (1975) reported that children's level of moral reasoning did not predict whether they would cheat when given the opportunity to do so.
  • As a result of this, Kohlberg emphasized moral action in the 'just community' education programme (Power, Higgins and Kohlberg).
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CSOS: Lewis and Brooks-Gunn on self-recognition

  • Sense of self starts to develop at around 18 months, which is also the starting point for understanding others. Two are inextricably linked and put three principles of social awareness - 1) Knowledge about another peron must also be gained about the self; 2) What is know about the self can be known about the other and vice versa; 3) Attributes.
  • Study involved showing photos of themselves and other babies at same age: 9-12 months they smiled, stared longer/15-18m said their own name when they saw a photo of themselves and other babies labelled as 'baby'.
  • Mirror test - 96 infants aged 9,12,15,18,21 and 24m participated in study; baby sat in lap in front of a large miror and behaviour observed for 90s
  • After this baseline of behaviour, rouge was dabbed onto the babies' nose by the mother and observed for a further 90s.
  • Regardless of age, most infants smiled at their image, but very few touched their nose in the 'no rouge' condition. When rouge was applied, older infants touched their nose and this increased with age; 3/4 of 21 +24m touched their nose whilst only 25% of 18m did so.
  • This assumption is that increased touching of the nose indicates that the infant recognises him/herself in the mirror.
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CSOS: Baron-Cohen on theory of mind

  • Underpins our understanding of mental states that cause action and reflects on the content of our own minds and other peoples' minds and the realisation that these may differ.
  • ToM allows us to make inferences about what others know, think and feel and to predict their motivations, what they are likely to do next, and the reasons behind their actions
  • B-C also uses the term 'mind reading' when discussing ToM because we mind read other people's mental states all the time without even noticing.
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CSOS: B-C, Leslie + Frith on testing ToM

  • B-C and colleagues undertook a quasi-experiment using the Sally-Anne belief task to test three groups of children:
  • 1) 20 autistic children between 6-16 (MCA: 11.11 years) and a mean verbal mental age of 5.5yrs / 2) 14 children with Down's syndrome, aged between 6-17 (mean 10.11) and verbal age of 2.11 years / 3) 27 normal children between 3-5 (mean 4.5) and similar verbal age.
  • Hypothesized that normal and down's syndrome children would have a ToM but that the autistic children would not.
  • Sally has a basket and Anne has a box; Sally has a marble and puts it into her basket and goes out; Anne takes Sally's marble and puts it into her box; Sally comes back and wants to play with her marble. 
  • Children are asked false-belief question - 'Where will Sally look for her marble?'
  • 85% of normal and 86% of Down's syndrome children answered the questions correctly, whereas 80% of the autistic children failed to answer the questions correctly. 
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CSOS: Evaluating false belief task

  • A strength of the experimental method used by Baron-Cohen and colleagues is the precise control of variables. 
  • However, since it is known that autistic children do not play well, the use of dolls may be inappropriate.
  • Children may also think that dolls cannot believe in things, rendering the task artificial and lacking in validity.
  • This study has also generated a significant amount of further research. 
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CSOS: Evaluating ToM

  • Since the early study by Baron-Cohen, the findings have been replicated by other researchers (Happe). There is also contradictory evidence (e.g Mitchell). A meta analysis conducted on 187 studies by Wellman et al concluded that ToM does develop during the pre-school years and is not an artifact of the tasks used.
  • Other research suggests that ToM does not develop until much later; Chandler and Sojol claim that children's understanding of other peoples' minds develops long after they are successful at false-belief tasks. 
  • Some claim that false belief tasks are inherently difficult, partly because they require a child to reason about a belief that is flase when beliefs are supposed to be true. Bloom and German suggest that false-belief tasks should be abandoned for 2 reasons; successful performance on these tasks requires abilities rather than ToM and ToM need not entail the ability to reason about false-beliefs.
  • It may be difficult for children for children to extrapolate successful performance on false-belief tasks to other contexts. An understanding of the relationship between false-beliefs and emotion, as demonstrated by Harris may develop more slowly than false belief tasks and behaviour.
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Flavel and Selman on perspective taking

  • According to Flavell, there are two levels of ability in perspective taking:
  • Level 1: Children aged between 2-3 know that another person experiences something differently (perceptual perspective taking.
  • Level 2: Children aged between 4-5 begin to develop more complex rules for working out what someone else is able to see or experience (cognitive and emotional perspective taking). False belief tasks test cognitive perspective taking. 
  • Egocentric perspective taking (3-6yrs): Recognizes the self and that others can have different thoughts and feelings, but these frequently become confused,
  • Social-informal-perspective-taking (5-9 yrs): Different perspectives can arise because individuals have access to different information and another person's perspective may not be similar to their own. Child tends to focus on his/her own perspective rather than attempting to co-ordinate a range of viewpoints
  • Self-reflective-perspective taking (7-12 years): First empathetic perspective whereby someone can see, think, feel and behave from another perspective.
  • Third-party perspective-taking (10-15yrs): A decentred view in the emotional/cognitive personal sense; the young person can see a situation from the perspective of a first,second and a neutral bystander.
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Evaluation of perspective taking

  • Keller and Eldelstein used one of Selman's dilemmas based on friendship in longitudinal study consisting of 121 participants (57 female, 64 male) aged 7,9,12 and 15. They found that the participants' responses reflected Selman's stages of perspective-taking and also Kohlberg's stages of moral development. 
  • Evidence to support Selman's approach also comes from biology. Sensory-motor systems are involved in taking the perspective of another person. When participants imagine themselves in a video-clip, taking the 1st person perspective, brain scans are different, compared with when they take a bystander perspective. The key difference was the level of activity in the sensory-motor area. Children with sensory processing problems or problems of intergrating sensory stimuli often find it difficult to make sense of cues required for perspective taking.
  • Selman was rigorous in the assessment interviews used to validate his model. Tested the relationship between P-T and how children negotiate relationships. A direct link was found between the stage of P-T and the nature of the negotiations that children used in their friendships.
  • Selman's stage theory has been applied in pair therapy to help children and young people with emotional and behavioural difficulties to develop P-T and negotiation skills appropriate to their age and help them manage their relationships with others.
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BEOSC: Adolphs on brain damage

  • Adolphs et al studied a 30yr patient known as SM, whose amygdala was destroyed by a metabolic disorder.
  • The amygdala plays an important role in percieving and experiencing negative emotions such as fear and anger.
  • SM could not recognise fear shown in expressions and nor did SM experience fear.
  • Another patient, known as N.M, also had damage to the amygdala.
  • NM also found it difficult to recognize fear in facial expressions and could not identify bodily postures that expressed fear.
  • These studies suggest a link between perception and behaviour. 
  • By studying brain deficits, it is possible to establish the importance of being able to recognise other peoples' emotional states.
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Hesslow, Decety and Ingvar on fMRI

  • fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) is used to measure brain activity.
  • This can provide valuable information about areas of brain activity during the execution of qualitatively different types of task and the effects of cog dev in the brain.
  • More recently, this technology has been used to ascertain which part of the brain becomes most active when individuals are asked to simulate carrying out a task in the first or third person.
  • This type of simulation which has been described by Decety and Ingvar as 'conscious reactivation of previously executed actions' stored in memory , requires less effortful processing when carried out in the first person but is more difficult when undertaken in the 3rd person pers.
  • Hesslow (2002) claims that when actions are stimulated we activate motor areas of the brain in such a way that resembles the neural activation involved when doing the actual action itself.
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Meister on music and fMRI

  • Meister carried out a study which demonstrated Hesslow's research, using fMRI scanning.
  • Participants played the same piece of music on the piano under two conditions:

1) on a silent keyboard, and

2) imagining they were playing the same piece

  • They found that similar front-parietal neurons were activated regardless of whether the piano was played silently or on an imaginary basis.
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Levenson and Ruef on the emotion of others

  • Levenson and Reuf found that when two people experience the same emotion, they are more accurate at determining each other's intentions, and this finding has been supported by fMRI scans.
  • For instance, when participants were asked to imitate or observe emotional expressions on faces, increased neural activity occurs in the areas of the brain related to understanding facial expression of emotions, as well as the premotor cortex which is normally active during the physical portrayal of emotional expression.
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Morrison and Botvinick on the pain of others

  • Morrison et al compared the neural pattern of activation during the actual experience of pain and when observing pain in another person.
  • Participants were given fMRI scans while experiencing a sharp probe, not unlike a needle, to the hand.
  • In a second condition, participants were shown a video of someone's hand being pricked by a needle.
  • The fMRI scans showed similar patterns of neural activity in both conditions; the anterior insula became activated.
  • These findings have been replicated in numerous fMRI studies (Jackson, Botvinick et al).
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