Psychology - Cognition and development

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Piaget's theory of cognitive development

Piaget's theory

The mechanisms of cognitive development

  • Piaget believed that cognitive development was a result of 2 influences: maturation and the environment
  • maturation refers to the effect of ageing
  • as children get older, certain mental operations become possible and at the same time, through interactions with the environment, their understanding of the world becomes more complex

Schema

  • self-constructed mental structures that can be behavioural or cognitive
  • schema are programmes that people construct for dealing with the world
  • when  child is born it has a few schema
  • these are developed over time as a consequence of the child's interaction with its environment
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Piaget's theory of cognitive development

Piaget's theory of cognitive development

Mechanisms of cognitive development

Assimilation

  • child initially tries to understand any new information in terms of their existing knowledge about the world
  • baby who is given a new toy car may grasp or **** that toy in the same way that they grasped or ****ed a rattle
  • assimilation occurs when an existing schema is used on a new object
  • assimilation therefore, involves the incorporation of new information into an existing schema

Accommodation

  • occurs when a child adapts existing schema in order to understand new information that doesn't appear to fit
  • learning to drive  manual car involves developing a convenient schema for working the three pedals
  • what would happen if you drove an automatic?
  • assimilation into your existing schema would not work, so accommodation must quickly occur
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Piaget's theory of cognitive development

Piaget's theory of cognitive development

Mechanisms of cognitive development

Equilibration

  • according to Piaget, cognitive development is driven by the need for equilibrium in cognitive structures
  • when a child is aware of shortcomings in existing thinking, experience an imbalance between what is understood and what is encountered
  • they try to reduce these imbalances by developing new schema or adapating old ones until equilibrium is restored
  • Piaget called this process equilibration

Operations

  • Piaget used this term to describe logical mental rules, such as the rules of arithmetic
  • schemas and operation are 'variant' processes, they change as a child mature
  • assimilation and accommodation are invariant because they remain the same throughout a person's life
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Piaget's theory of cognitive development

Stages in cognitive development

Stage 1: sensorimotor stage

  • children learn to co-ordinate sensory inpu (what they see) with motor actions (with their hand movements)
  • done through circular reactions where they repeat the same action over and over to test sensorimotor relationships
  • key development of this stage is object permanence
  • very young infants lose interest in an object when it is hidden because they assume it has ceased to exist
  • around 8 months they realise the objects that are out of sight still exist

Stage 2: preoperational stage

  • childen's thought becomes increasingly symbolic as they begin to represent their world with words, images, drawings
  • not capable of reversability of thought
  • they fail to understand that the physical properties of an object (mass, volume, weight) remain the same despite changes in its appearance
  • this was due to reliance on perceptual rather than logic based reasoning 
  • children at this stage are egocentric in their thinking
  • only see the world from their position and ae not aware of other perspectives
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Piaget's theory of cognitive development

Stages in cognitive development

Stage 3: concrete operational stage

  • children acquire the rudiments of logical reasoning and display skills of reversibility and decentration (no longer focus on just one aspect of a task)
  • means they are now able to conserve quantities
  • conservation involves recognising that quantities don't change even if they look different
  • Piaget believed that conservation was the single most important achievement of the concrete operational stage because it provides evidence of the child's command of logical operations

Stage 4: formal operational stage

  • children can now solve abstract problems
  • can olve problems using hypothetico-deductive reasoning (thinking like a scientist)
  • children also display idealistic thinking 
  • are no longer tied to how things are but are able to imagine how things might be if certain changes are made
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Piaget's theory of cognitive development

Evaluation

Stages in development

Sensorimotor stage

  • Nativists claim infants have more knowledge about the world than Piaget suggested
  • For example, Baillargeon and DeVos (1991) howed infants as young as 3-4 months did display object permanence
  • used taasks such as the rolling car task, where a large carrot or a small carrot is placed on a toy train set and rolled along a track
  • at one point, train and carrot go behind a screen with a large window
  • large carrot should be visible as it passes behind the window
  • the small carrot (not as broad) should remain hidden
  • infants looked longer at the large carrot when it didn't appear, expecting the top half to be visible
  • i.e had object permanence
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Piaget's theory of cognitive development

Evaluation

Stages in development

Pre-operational stage

  • Piaget illustrated pre-operational thinking using the 3 mountains task
  • children shown set of pictures and asked to choose the one which showed the doll's perspecive
  • 4 year old children tended to choose their own perspective, rather than the perspective of the doll
  • However, Hughes (1975) showed young children could cope with the task if it was more realistic 
  • for example using a naughty boy doll who was hiding from a toy policeman

Concrete operational stage

  • Piaget demonstrated conservation by showing children various displays of quantity, such as rows of counters, cylinders of plasticine or beakers of water
  • if the display was transformed so the quantity appeared to have increased, younger children could not conserve the quantity
  • they did not think it had remained the same, if it looked bigger it was bigger
  • only around the age of 7 were children able to recognise that the quantities stayed the same even after their appearance had changed
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Piaget's theory of cognitive development

Evaluation

Stages in development

Formal operational stage

  • Piaget and Inhelder (1956) used the beaker problem to demonstrated how children apply logical thinking to problem solving
  • chidren shown 5 liquid filled beakers and asked to work out how to turn the liquid yellow by combining various liquids
  • young children tried random combinations whereas children at the stage of formal operations developed a logical strategy
  • Dasen (1994) claims only 1/3 of adults ever reach this stage and even then not during adolescence

Limitations

  • Piget perhaps underestimated children's ability at younger ages and may have overestimated the ability to use abstract logic in the formal operational stage
  • theory focuses too much on logic and ignores social factors such as benefit of cooperative group work
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Piaget's theory of cognitive development

Evaluation

Strengths

  • Piaget remains one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century
  • theory has had enormous influence on education
  • Bryant (1995) reminds us that Piaget's key contribution was to highlight the radical differences in the way young children and adults think
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Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development

Mental processes

Elementary and higher mental functions

  • Vygotsky proposed children are often born with elementary mental functions, such as perception and memory
  • these are transformed into higher mental functions (such as use of mathematical systems)
  • this is done by the influence of culture
  • lower mental functions are biological and a form of natural development
  • higher mental are exclusively human
  • role of culture is to transform elementary mental functions into higher mental functions

What to think and how to think

  • culture makes 2 types of contributions to a children's cognitive development
  • through culture, children acquire much of the content of their thinking i.e their knowledge
  • surrounding culture also provides a child with the processes of their thinking
  • culture teaches children both what to think and how to think
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Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development

Process of culture influence

Role of others: Experts

  • child learns through problem-solving experiences shared with someone else, usually a parent or teacher but also more competent peers
  • all people with greater knowledge are called 'experts'
  • initially, person interacting with the child assumes most of the responsibility of guiding the problem-solving activity
  • gradually this responsibility transfers to the child

Semiotics and the role of language

  • Vygotsky believed that culture is transmitted by experts using semiotics i.e the signs and symbols developed within a particular culture
  • language is the semiotic system of foremost importance 
  • conversations between expert and learner enable adults to transmit the rich body of konwledge that exists in the culture
  • to begin with, language takes the form of shared dialogues between adul and child
  • as they develop the skill out of mental representation, children communicte with themselves in the same way they would communicate with others
  • children begin using language to solve problems around the age of 2
  • frequntly talk out loud to solve problems, known as egocentric speech
  • at around 7, this gives way to silent or inner speech
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Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development

The social and individual level

  • according to Vygotsky, every function in the child's cognitive development appears twice
  • first in the social level (between people) and later on the individual level (inside the child) 
  • child converts these social relations into higher mental functions through mediation
  • language is the most important kind of mediation (semiotic mediation)
  • frees children from the constraints of their immediate environment

Zone of proximal development

  • Child's ZPD is the region where cognitive development takes place
  • at first, learning is between people (social) and later becomes internalised (individual)
  • this process is known as internalisation
  • ZPD defined by Vygotsky as the 'distance betwen the actual development level as determined by independent problem-solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem-solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers'
  • According to Vygotsky, learning or cognitive development does not take place in area of current development, nor dos it take plae too far ahead of what the child cn already to independently
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Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development

Evaluation

Research evidence

Role of culture

  • Vygotsky's claims about the effects of culture have been supported in cross cultural research
  • Gredler (1992) pointed to the primitive counting system used in Papa New Guinea as an example of how culture can limit cognitive development
  • counting is done by starting on the thumb of one hand and going up the arm and down to the other fingers, ending at 29
  • system makes it very difficult to add and subtract large numbers, a limiting factor for development in this culture 
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Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development

Evaluation

Role of language

  • cornerstone of theory is the role of language
  • Vygotsky believed lagnauge and thought are at first independent and then become interdependent
  • suggested the acquisition of a new word was the beginning of the development of a concept
  • supported by classic study by Carmichael et al (1932) who gave Ps one or two labels for certain drawings
  • when Ps were subsequently asked to draw the shape, differed accordingly to what label they had been given
  • shows that words can affect the way we remember things

Role on ZPD

  • evidence for ZPD was produced in a study by McNaughton and Leyland (1990)
  • observed young children working with their mothers on jigsaw puzzles of increasing difficulty
  • week later - obsereved children working on their own
  • children reached a higher level of difficulty with their mothers (potential ability) than when they were working on their own (current ability) so defining their ZPD
  • When doing puzzles too easy for them (below ZPD) mothers mainly concerned with keeping the child on task
  • at second level (within child's ZPD), mothers focused on helping the children solve the puzzle for themselves
  • at third level (beyond child's ZPD) emphasis was on completing the puzzle by whatever means
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Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development

Evaluation

Strengths and limitations

Limitations

  • despite number of studies, there has been relatively little research related to Vygotsky's theory compared with the abundance of research on Piaget's theory
  • Vygotsky's theory doesn't lend itself as readily to experimentation
  • concepts are more difficult to operationalise
  • Further limitation is on the social emphasis in Vygotsky's theory
  • Piaget underplayed social influences, Vygotsky overplayed the importance of the social environment
  • if social influence was all we needed to advance cognitive development then learning would be a lot faster than it is
  • Vygotsky's emphasis on social factors also led him to largely ignore biological factors

Strengths

  • Vygotskian approach provides a bridge between social and cognitive domains
  • is a more positive approach than Piaget's because it offers ways others can be actively involved in assisting a learner
  • in this way, potentially has more educational applications than Piaget's theory
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Applications of cognitive development theories to

Applying Piaget's theory to education

Readiness

  • according to Piaget, each stage of cognitive development appears through natural process of ageing
  • therefore, has the view you cannot teach a child to perform certain activities before they are biologically 'ready'
  • Piaget proposed activities should be at the appropriate level for a child's age
  • if a child is not mature enough, may acquire skills superficially
  • in order to truly understand and become competent, it is important to wait until they are ready

Stages of development

  • concept or readiness means educational programmes should be designed along the lines of Piaget's stages of development

Motivation to learn

  • Piaget suggested cognitive growth comes from desire to resolve the disequilibrium caused by cognitive conflict
  • teacher's task is to create environment where learner is challenged to accommodate current schemas to cope with new information
  • teachers role is not to impart knowledge but ask questions and therefore child's knowledge develops through discovery learning

Logical thinking

  • Piaget argued logical thinking is the spur to cognitive development and needs to be taught
  • Believed logical thinking was not 'innate'
  • therefore, important to have logic, maths and science subjects on the curriculum to facilitate cognitive development
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Applications of cognitive development theories to

Evaluation

Readiness

  • Notion of readiness implies that practice on a task should not lead to improved performance until a child is sufficiently mature
  • there is evidence for and against this
  • Bryant and Trabasso (1971) showed that pre-operational children could be trained to solve certain logical tasks
  • they argued that children's failure was due to memory restrictions rather than a lack of operational (logical) thinking
  • when pre-operational children practiced solving simple problems and gradually built up to more complex tasks, they could cope, showing that practice rather than readiness mattered
  • However, Danner and Day (1977) found practice made no difference
  • students aged 10-13 were tutored on three formal operational tasks and showed no improvement
  • 17 year olds' performance was improved as we would expect because they should be sufficiently mature
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Applications of cognitive development theories to

Evaluation

Piaget (continued)

Limitations

  • Sylva (1987) suggests that the criticisms of Piaget's theory undermine its educational application
  • other critics feel Piagetian discovery activities are often at the expense of content knowledge and may lead to backwardness in reading and writing because they spend too little time practising these skills (Mogdil et al 1983)
  • Piagetian view may be culture biased
  • Suggests that the child is the sole agent of his learning which is an individualist approach
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Applications of cognitive development theories to

Vygotsky

Evaluation

Collaborative learning

  • Research has found support for the value of collaborative learning
  • Gokhale (1995) found students who participated in collaborative learning subsequently performed better on an individual critical thinking test than students who studied individually
  • many studies have shown that peer tutoring leads to improvements in both tutees' and tutors' academic and social development (Cohen et al 1982)
  • consistent finding is that it is most effective for peer tutors (Cloward 1967)
  • makes sense because the best way to understand something better is to teach it

Maximising the value of scaffolding

  • Wood and Middleton (1975) found successful scaffolding depends on something they called 'contingent regulations'
  • watched mothers and their 3-4 year old children assembling a 3 dimensional pyramind puzzle
  • task was beyond the children's current abilities
  • found that task mastery was related to contingent regulations - when a mother responded to her child's failure by providing more explicit instructions 
  • responded to success by providing less explicit instructions 
  • shows that the teaching (from MKO) needs to respond differentially to a learner's responses to enhance learning success
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Kohlberg's theory of moral understanding

Kohlberg's theory

  • Kohlberg's approach was inspired by Piaget's theory although Kohlberg focused particularly on the way children think about moral decisions rather than  on their moral behaviour
  • Kohlberg (1966) constructed a stage theory based on extensive interviews that he conducted with boys aged 10-16
  • key features of the theory are:
  • Stages are invariant and universal - people everywhere go through the same stages in the same order
  • each new stage represents a more equilibriated form of moral understanding, results in a more logically consistent and morally mature form of understanding
  • each stage forms an organised whole - a qualitatively different pattern of moral  understanding that is applied across all situations
  • moral maturity is achieved through 1) biological maturation, 2) disequilibrium, 3) gains in perspective taking
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Kohlberg's theory of moral understanding

Kohlberg's stages of moral development

Level 1 - the preconventional level

Stage 1: Punishment and obedience orientation

  • this style of morality ignores the intentions behind a behaviour and focuses on obeying rules that are enforced by punishment

Stage 2: instrumental purpose orientation

  • children view actions as 'right' if they satisfy their own needs

Level 2: the conventional level

Stage 3: interpersonal cooperation

  • 'good boy-good girl orientation' 
  • what is right is defined by what is expected by others

Stage 4: social-order-maintaining orientation

  • marks the shift from defining what is right in terms of role expectations to defining right in terms of norms established by the larger social system 
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Kohlberg's theory of moral understanding

Kohlberg's stages of moral development

Level 3: the post-conventional level

Stage 5: the social contract orientation

  • laws are seen as relative and flexible 
  • where they are consistent with individual rights and the interests of the majority, they are upheld
  • otherwise, they can be changed

Stage 6: universal ethical principles orientation

  • morality is defined in terms of self-chosen abstract moral principles
  • laws usually conform to these principles
  • where this is not the case, indivdual acts in accordance with their moral principles
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Kohlberg's theory of moral understanding

Evaluation

Moral behaviour

  • one problem with theory is that it concerns thinking rather than behaviour
  • Kohlberg did predict that those who reason in a more mature fashion should be inclined to more morally mature behaviour 
  • found support for this (Kohlberg 1975)
  • when students were given the opportunity to cheat on a test, found only 15% of college students at the post-conventional stage cheated
  • 70% of those in the pre-conventional stage did
  • Burton (1976) found people only behave consistently with their moral principles on some kinds of moral behaviour such as cheating or sharing toys
  • concluded it is likely that factors other than moral principles affect moral behaviour, such as the likelihood of punishment or the nature of the situation


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Kohlberg's theory of moral understanding

Evaluation

Moral consistency

  • Further issue is that participants do not make consistent judgements when given moral dilemmas
  • they may judge one dilemma using stage 1 arguments and another using stage 3 arguments
  • Krebs and Denton (2005) suggest that the reason for this is that moral principles are only one factor in moral behaviour
  • may be overriden by more practical factors such as making personal financial gains
  • Krebs and Denton found that when analysing real life moral decisions, moral principles were used to justify behaviour after it had been performed

Different moral perspectives

  • further criticism is that he had a restricted view of morality
  • Gilligan argued that Kohlberg favoured a morality of justice rather than care
  • Eisenberg (1982) claimed Kohlberg's view was restricted by ignoring the effect of emotional facors

Strengths

  • has remained an important influence on our understanding of moral development
  • has a universal emphasis and that moral reasoning progresses with age
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Development of a child's sense of self

A child's sense of self

Subjective self awareness

  • some aspects of self awareness are present from birth, such as sensations of warmth and fullness
  • by 2 months, infants have a sense of 'personal agency', they recognise they are responsible for the movement of their limbs
  • Bahrick and Watson (1985) demonstrated that 5 month olds had an awareness of what their legs were doing
  • infants responded differently to a video taken in real time of their leg movements and a video of their leg movements taken at an earlier time
  • around the same time, infants can recognise their own faces
  • Legerstee et al (1998) found 5-8 month year old infants looked longer at pictures of other children than of themselves
  • Lewis (1991) argues that this is a subjective rather than objective sense of self
  • Subjective self-awareness refers to the ability to perceive oneself as distinct from others, which is different from the ability to reflect upon oneself - an objective sense of self
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Development of a child's sense of self

A child's sense of self

Objective self-awareness and self-recognition

  • ability to reflect upon oneself (objective self-awareness) is regarded as a milestone in development and a key feature of human behaviour
  • when infant responds to rouge mark on its nose by touching its nose rather than the mirror iage, this suggests an understanding that the mirror image is of itself
  • this demontrates objective self-awareness
  • Classic study by Lewis and Brooks-Gunn (1979) found 19% of babies touched their nose by the age of 15 months
  • 66% did by 24 months
  • around the same age, babies are beginning to use personal pronouns such as 'me' and 'mine' (Slater and Lewis 2002)

Psychological self

  • visual/physical self recognition is only the beginning of a child's self concept
  • young children still lack a psycholigcal concept of who they are
  • when asked to describe themselves, children aged 4 years were likely to mention physical features
  • however, they begin to devlop a psychological self
  • further development is self esteem, the value that a person attaches to their self-concept
  • signs of this begin to appear around the age of 4 
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Development of a child's sense of self

A child's sense of self

Distinguishing between self and others - Theory of Mind

  • ToM is not an actual theory like Piaget's theory of cognitive development
  • is an intuitive set of beliefs developed by each individul
  • is the understanding that someone else has a separate mind to your own 
  • therefore, doesn't see or experience the world as you do
  • Newborns can distinguish between humans and other objects, therefore displaying a knowledge of others (Legerstee 1992)
  • by the age of 2, children display some understanding of the mental state of others
  • for example, comfort others and begin to use deceit which requires understanding of what someone believes to be true (Dunn 1991)
  • Distinction is made between knowing about someone else's internal state and knowing about how they experience the world
  • ToM first appears around the age of 3 or 4 
  • at this time, children start using terms like 'think' and 'know' when referrng to others 
  • typical task used to demonstrated ToM is the 'false-belief task'
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Development of a child's sense of self

False-belief task

  • classic false belief task is called the Sally Anne Test
  • story about 2 dolls
  • Sally puts her ball in her basket and leaves the room
  • Anne moves the ball to her box
  • Sally returns: where will she look for the ball?
  • a child with a ToM can answer the final question correctly
  • child without a ToM cannot separate their own knowledge from Sally's 
  • would therefore say that Sally will look in the box because that is where the child would look
  • ToM enables us to recognise that others can have beliefs about the world that are wrong (false beliefs)
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Development of a child's sense of self

Evaluation

Subjective self-awareness

  • view that infants are born with a rudimentary sense of sel, or at least an ability to distinguish themselves from others, is not shared by all psychologists
  • Freudians such as Mahler et al (1973) present a contrasting view
  • argue that, at birth, infant has no sense of separateness from his/her mother
  • individuation is something that develops over the first few months of life 

Objective self awareness

Emotional development

  • one of consequences of development of objective self-awareness is ability to display emotions
  • very young children display the basic emotions of pleasure, sadness, fear and surprise
  • development of conscious awareness of self is important in emotional devleopment

Individual differences

  • research has found that the development of self recogniton is faster in securely attached and also in babies who have been encouraged to be independent (Borke et al 2007)
  • makes an interesting link to cultural differences
  • in Western cultures attachment is about independence, infants given more object stimulation and less body contact
  • by contrast, the norm in non-Western cultures is interdependence
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Development of a child's sense of self

Theory of mind

Autism

  • Simon Baron-Cohen has taken a paticular interest in the concept of ToM as an explanation for the childhood disorder of autism
  • one of the typical characteristics of autism is that they find social interaction difficult
  • Baron-Cohen et al (1985) used the Sally Anne Test to demonstrate their autistic children lacked a ToM whereas children with Down's syndrome coped normally, showing that social abnormalities typical of autism are not linked to low IQ but to a specific ToM deficit

ToMM

  • Baron-Cohen (1995) proposed a ToM module which is a specific mechanism that matures in the brain aroun the age of 4
  • explains an individual's ability to understand the ental states of other people

Individual differences

  • ToM is not solely determined by biology
  • research shows it appears earlier in children from large families
  • having a large family and older siblings means a child is challenged to think about intentions of others when resolving conflicts
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Development of a child's understanding of others

Early development

Imitation

  • first evidence of children's understanding of others is shown in their ability to imitate other people's expressions
  • Meltzoff and Moore (1977, 1989) found even newborns less than 72 hours old are able to imitate experimenter's facial gestures of mouth opening, lip protrusion, tongue protrusion and manual gestures, such as the opening of the hand

Intentions

  • in orddr to interact with others, is necessary to understand their intentions
  • infants as young as 3 months will follow a person's gaze to nearby objects
  • indicates an understanding of communicative intent
  • around age of 1, infants reliably follow gaze and pointing gestures to more distant objects (Carpenter et al 1998) 
  • Carpenter et al (2001) used the same test with autistic children aged 2 and a half to 5 years
  • found little difference with normal children
  • suggests that understanding intentions is a separate ability to ToM
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Development of a child's understanding of others

Selman's role taking dilemmas

An example of Selman's perspective taking dilemma

  • Holly is an 8 year old girl who likes to climb trees
  • is the best tree climber in the neighbourhood
  • one day, while climbing a tree she falls off the bottom branch but doesn't hurt herself
  • father sees her fault and is upset
  • asks her to promise not to climb trees any more and Holly promises
  • later that day, Holly and her friends meet Sean 
  • Sean's kitten is caught up a tree and cannot get down
  • something has to be done right away or the kitten may fall
  • Holly is the only one who climbs trees well enough to reach the kitten and get it down
  • then remembers the promise she made to her father
  • Selman asked children a series of role taking questions
  • if Holly climbs the tree, should she be punished?
  • Wilher father understand if she climbs the tree?
  • Will Sean understand if Holly refuses?
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Development of a child's understanding of others

Selman's stage theory of perspective or role taking

Stage 0: Undifferentiated (3-6 years)

  • Children can distinguish between self and others but are governed by their own perspective

Stage 1: Social-informational (6-8 years)

  • children are aware of perspectives that are different from their own 
  • assume that is because others have different information

Stage 2: self-reflective (8-10 years)

  • children can now understand that two people with the same information may form different views
  • aware of other's perspective and also aware that other people can understand their perspective - but can't consider two perspectives at the same time

Stage 3: Mutual (10-12 years)

  • can step outside a two person situation and imagine how the self and other are viewed from the point of view from a third, impartial party

Stage 4: Societal (12-15+ years)

  • personal decisions are now made with reference to social conventions 
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Development of a child's understanding of others

Evaluation

Separate modules

  • One view is that there are separate biolgoical modules for different abilities which mature at different rates
  • behavioural support for separate ToM module comes from the fact autistic children can understand the intentions of others but do not develop ToM
  • further supported by Hobson (1984) who found that autistic children performed at the same level as children of the same mental age on the 3 mountains task
  • could cope with perceptual perspective taking but ultimately do not develop conceptual perspective taking

Interdependence

  • on other hand, there is evidence that points more to a continuum starting with imitation and moving through perceptual perspective-taking to ToM
  • perceptual perspective taking is a necessary condition of ToM
  • research has shown that children with sensory impairments usually experience delays in the development of ToM
  • some hearing-impaired children do not develop ToM until adolescence
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Development of a child's understanding of others

Selman's stage theory of perspective or role taking

Stage 0: Undifferentiated (3-6 years)

  • Children can distinguish between self and others but are governed by their own perspective

Stage 1: Social-informational (6-8 years)

  • children are aware of perspectives that are different from their own 
  • assume that is because others have different information

Stage 2: self-reflective (8-10 years)

  • children can now understand that two people with the same information may form different views
  • aware of other's perspective and also aware that other people can understand their perspective - but can't consider two perspectives at the same time

Stage 3: Mutual (10-12 years)

  • can step outside a two person situation and imagine how the self and other are viewed from the point of view from a third, impartial party

Stage 4: Societal (12-15+ years)

  • personal decisions are now made with reference to social conventions 
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Development of a child's understanding of others

Importance of role-taking skills

  • Role-taking skills are a critical component of moral understanding
  • in fact, they are fundamentally important in all social behaviour
  • popular children have better role taking skills (Schaffer 2002)
  • suggests social success is related to understanding the mental states of others
  • Deception may not appear to be an important outcome of role taking skills
  • it in terms of evolution
  • ToM is an ability that has evolved because it is part of group living and social interaction
  • in order for any animal to interact with other members of its species, each individual needs to have an ability to understand the mental states of others
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Biological explanations of social cognition

Role of the mirror neuron system

Imitation

  • what had been discovered was a system that could how one individual imitates another
  • mirror neuron encodes the activity of another as if the observer were acting out the same acitivity
  • such imitation is important in the acquition of skilled behaviours, where observer watches how someone else performs an action and then models that behaviour
  • imitation is also the beginning of the development of social cognition

Perspective taking and ToM

  • Gallese and Goldman (1998) claimed MNs (mirror neurons) may be seen as a precursor to general mind reading ability because they enable us to experience someone else's actions as if they are our own
  • this means that MNs are the mechanism by which we understand another person's perspective, i.e when we develop a ToM 
  • may lead to empathy - ability to do more than just understand what someone else is thinking
  • also alows us to understand how they are feeling
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Biological explanations of social cognition

Language acquisition

  • language is an important part of social behaviour
  • MNs may play a role in its development
  • for example, beginning of learning to use language involves imitation of speech sounds
  • this is likely to involve MNs (Rizzolatti  and Arbib 1998)
  • further indication of a link between languages and MNs comes from Binkofski et al (2000)
  • using brain imaging techniques, found evidence of MNs in Broca's area
  • this area of the brain is involved in speech production
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Biological explanations of social cognition

Evaluation

Simulation theory

  • Discovery of MNs has been seen as support for simulation theory (ST)
  • according to this theory, we read other people's minds by experiencing what they are experiencing and use this to predict the other's actions and feelings
  • the alternative view is 'theory' theory (TT)
  • suggests we infer mental states from observations
  • contrust a 'theory' about what the other person is thinking on the basis of all available information
  • infer states on the basis of reasoning
  • ToM is essentially a 'theory' theory
  • discovery of MNs offered a neurological basis for ST because MNs suggest that the way we experience others is by having an internal, offline representation

Lack of supporting evidence

  • there is some supporting evidence, but generally the confirmation has been weak for major claims of MNs
  • brain regions that are active when people experience emotions or active when watching someone else experiencing emotions are not the ones identified with mirror neurons (Lamm et al 2007)
  • on other hand, Gazzola et al (2006) have produced evidence that people high in empathy show greater activity in the MN brain regions
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