ED209 revision: early cognitive development

Going by my revision plan I should have done sensation to perception first and indeed I have gone over those notes. However, the chapter from the book is an entirely different matter covering mainly the technicalities of the senses with heaps of new terminology rather than “proper” psychology. My thinking is that there’s basically no chance of me being able to answer a question based on that chapter at the moment although it does seem a nice introduction to the L3 course based around those themes; I’m going to leave it ’til then.

So what’s early cognitive development all about? Essentially it comes in three sections: understanding objects, interacting with people and understanding representations in descending order of importance going by the page count of each.

Understanding objects kicks off with Piaget’s object permanance (the toy hidden under the cloth) which they fail before around 9 months according to him. Bower tried testing using a train but this one falls down as young children can’t stop tracking a moving object. Finally, Baillargeon’s drawbridge and car experiments using the habituation method indicated that they could understand permanance from around 5 or 6 months of age and down to 3 1/2 in a replication. He went on to show that children before around 3 months thought that any size of object could hide any other size of object. Bringing up the rear were Hood and Willats with their light off experiment which also came out around 5 months for object permance.

On a separate tack, Piaget came up with the A-not-B (a variant of the toy hidden under the cloth). Harris felt that this was down to fragile memory but Butterworth came up with the same result even with a transparent cloth (sounds like a weird result, eh?). This suggests that the confusion could be down to a mismatch between updating their egocentric memory vs their allocentric memory. Diamond went on to try variations of the delay between hiding the toy and asking the child to retrieve it: as you would expect this delay could be lengthened as the child got older.

The second theme is around people and interacting with them. This one’s all about imitation which ranges from no imitation in the first month, some up to 4 months, direct imitation from 8-12 months and after that they can imitate  new and deferred behaviours. As ever, everyone else found that kids could do all this stuff much earlier than Piaget found with Meltzoff & Moore getting imitation down to 12-21 days of age (albeit with a small sample and no “nothing happened” option). Aside from those qualifications they went on to show that the ability to imitate improved with age as one would expect: 2 or 3 months old kids clearly could do more than those 6 weeks old.

Finally, in this chapter there’s a rundown of the understanding of models. DeLoache used a model room and found that children from around 3 years of age could correctly identify in the real room where stuff had been hid in the model room. Most common was the A-not-B error which suggested that the problem was an inhibitory one. However, that would suggest that they’d do better on the first trial but in practice some 77% failed first time around.

Overall, the problem of experimenting on really young children is that it’s not possible to ask them to explain their reasoning and that they may have difficulty in co-ordinating what they know with what they’d like to do.

Now, if I can manage to remember all that in the exam that would work out around the right wordcount for an answer I think. Anyway, ’tis on to temperament and development next. Oh, and the seen question…

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