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Cognitive Development

IB Psychology
Daphnee Pita, Rikki Ignacio, Gerlene Ragsac, Elizabeth Wells, and Pomai Nakoa

Assess the extent to which biological, cognitive, and sociocultural factors influence human development Pomai

To better understand how the three levels of analysis affect human development


The biological level of analysis

Argues that there are physiological origins of many behaviors, and that human beings should be studied as biological systems. Development of a persons brain is understood through the biological level of analysis.

As newborns we show certain characteristics that are universal in all human beings
E.g. sucking, grasping, and basic visual and auditory abilities (seem prepared for social interaction with others)

Brain Development
Brain of a newborn has more than a trillion nerve cells that communicate across many trillions of synapses Supported by a trillion glial cells Account for 90% of the cells in the human brain Central Nervous system continues to grow In both size and complexity (after birth) Synaptic growth is most significant in the first year of life Growth of the gap between two neurons, over which impulses lead to learning Brain Activity increases with synaptic growth Continues on during childhood and into late adolescence Neural connections can be formed over an entire life span because human brains are equipped for lifelong learning Ability to change and develop in response to the environment = neuroplasticity

Brain Development

Age 6-9 months: frontal lobes and prefrontal areas of the cortex begin to function more fully (due to development of the brain during adolescence, myelinization) Growth in hippocampus and cerebellum, also Control center for body movements
Psychologists believe this to be the reason they now have more complex motor behavior and an increased ability to learn

Middle Childhood: frontal lobe growth persists Hypothesis: The pattern of brain changes taking place between 5 and 7 years of age enables the frontal lobes to coordinate the activities of other brain centers (Case 1991) More complex behaviors become possible

The Cognitive Level of Human beings are information Analysis processors and mental processes guide
behavior Cognitive development is dependent on how the individual child interacts with the social and physical world -John Piaget
Suggested that children use strategies in thinking and problem solving that reflect dif. stages of cognitive development
Kept a baby diary for each of his four children (clinical interview journal)

Assimilation vs. Accommodation

Knowledge consists of cognitive structures- schemaswhich are mental representations of how to deal with the world The childs first experiences are based on a limited innate repertoire of schemas. Sucking, reaching, and grasping Modified as a result of experience
- Piaget called this adaptation

2 forms: Assimilation & Accommodation

Assimilation vs. Accommodation

Assimilation: new information can be integrated into existing cognitive schemas

Red triangle

*Fits because it is still a triangle

Assimilation vs. Accommodation

Accommodation: existing cognitive schemas have to be altered because they no longer match new experiences.

Star = new experience Starting set of schemas Altered cognitive schemas

*results in change and new knowledge

How the presence and behavior of one or a few people

The Sociocultural Level of Analysis

affect the behavior and attitudes of another individual possible to describe the process by which children
acquire knowledge without taking into account the childs social environment or culture Culture provides knowledge and teaches children what to think and how to think

Russian psychologist Vygotsky argued that its not

Concept of zone of proximal development Refers to the difference between what a child can do on his/her own and what he/she can accomplish with help Child can increase in competence if he or she receives assistance to perform a task thats slightly beyond his/her current ability (scaffolding) Successful scaffolding can change the childs level of performance on a particular task. Example: Children growing up in very poor families, with low social status, experience levels of stress that may impair brain development.

Sociocultural theory

Psychological Studies Relevant to Developmental Psychology

Elizabeth Wells

Observations or Interviews Laboratory Experiments Naturalistic Studies or Case Studies Longitudinal Studies Cross-Sectional Studies

Longitudinal Studies
Used in developmental psychology to measure change over time

Strengths Provide rich data about kinds of experiences can influence development No participant variables

Limitations Time consuming Participants may decide to leave the study early, making it difficult to generalize from the study

Cross-Sectional Studies
Used in developmental psychology to test the change of a variable in different age groups

Strengths Less time consuming Fewer participants are lost during the process

Limitations Uses different participants at different age groups Cannot be certain the difference in the variable is solely due to age change

Chuganis Study (1999)

Used a PET scan to find that newborns have little activity in their cerebral cortex (where higher level functioning takes place) Higher activity in the brain stem Glucose levels steadily increased in the hippocampus with age Strengths: effective in developing evidence about brain activity over time, cannot deny PET scan data, replicable Limitation: did not observe the participants after childhood

Bachivaliers Study (1999)

Lesioned a baby monkeys brain in the limbic system, amygdala, hippocampus, and cingulate cortex It lost ability for social behavior and had many of the same traits as a human with autism Helped psychologists understand biological factors that influence development No longer allowed because unethical

Giedds Research (2004)

Longitudinal study, using MRI scans on normal children Found that 95% of the brain is formed at age 5 or 6, and there is a growth spurt of synapses in the prefrontal region before puberty Strengths: shows that different parts of the brain develop at different times, replicable Limitation: does not connect certain behaviors and brain development

Piagets Interviews
Open-ended, conversational attempt to understand the childs judgments and explanations. He studied his 4 children Must be trained for a year to be an interviewer Detailed notes and baby dairies are the product

Piaget Study Continued

Strengths Longitudinal study of more than one participant Thorough interviews Constantly able to observe participants Replicable Limitations Interviewed his own children, may be bias Disregarded sociocultural factors Only used 4 participants

Lis Conservation Task Study (1999)

Strengths Conducted on many (486) children Replicable Draws a connection between cognitive development and age Considered sociocultural factors Limitations Only conducted on Chinese students, may not be able to generalize

Cognitive Development

Evaluate theories of cognitive development

Gerlene Ragsac

Zone of Proximal-Development: Difference in how a child works alone or with help. Scaffolding: increasing own abilities by getting help from someone else, for a large task. Cooperative Learning, rather than child-centred learning.

Key Aspect of Vigotskys Theory

Children and adults think differently but how? Constructionist Approach

Environment changed people Interaction with social/physical aspects affect cognition

Kids work with objects hands-on or mentally Strategies used by children show stages in their development

Piagets Methods
Case studies: 4 own children baby diaries with observations and conversations Clinical Interview: Minimum amount of influence by the questioner
Allows the child to answer with their own perspective of what happens and how/why Training lasted for a year before starting

Piagets Beliefs
Schemas are the things that change Children begin with an assortment of natural schemas Adaptation: Existing schemas that change due to experience
Sucking, reaching, grasping, etc.

Two Types of Adaptation

Assimilation Accommodation

New information is mixed with old schemas

Old schemas must be changed, new schemas are made

A boy learns that cars come in various sizes, shapes, etc.

Sees a tractor, which isnt a car car schema excludes tractor and makes a new tractor schema

Sensorimeter: 0-2 Years

Babies have to use their natural born instincts Movements & sensations help the baby learn 5 senses play a role in this method of learning Able to discern different objects No control at first specific movements open up opportunities to gain knowledge Object Permanence: Out of sight, out of mind Ignorance Curiosity Acceptance

Three-Mountain Task: Piaget & Inhelder (1956)

3 Mountains are set up: A large one with 2 smaller ones The child is placed at any angle, and a doll is placed in various positions Child is asked to choose a picture of many that shows that the doll would see Results: Child typically chose the images that showed their perspective

Donaldson (1984) Task wasnt an ordinary task that most children do on a daily basis Hughes (1975) Used a doll and policeman
Perpendicular pieces of wood were placed Child questioned on if the policeman could see the doll; given the task to hide the doll

Results: The task was interesting & meaningful

Speaking abilities but can only focus on one topic/aspect/situation at each time Egocentrism: Own perspective only cognitive limitation due to inability of understanding other viewpoints

Pre-operational Stage: 2-7 Years

Physical properties remain constant even if the appearance changes Children are concerned about seeing the action, rather than analyzing it
Water poured into different sized glasses

Conservation Limitation 2

486 Chinese primary schools used Percentage of right replies improved with age. Better school image did well, compared to less privileged schools.
Education affects cognitive development as well.

Concrete Operational Stage: 7-12 Years

Rules of logic begin to apply in problem solving usually in non-abstract questions Visuals may be needed to aid the child

Abstract logic can be used manipulate various concepts and grasp unusual ideas. Education plays a key role on when a person reaches this stage .

Formal Operational Stage: 12+ years

Key Concepts of Piagets Theory Child-Centred Learning:

When a child learns things mainly on their own. Children seek knowledge and are adventurous individuals, rather than passive Basis for new ways of research methods.

The use of his own children

There were only 4 of them, which makes it hard to generalize findings to larger populations

Some traits in children are found in earlier ages than those Piaget predicted Social learning wasnt treated as important
Self-discovery was all that mattered Social/Cultural context was disregarded

Understanding a childs pursuit of knowledge includes considering cultural/social aspects Human interaction + cultural tools

Vygotskys Sociocultural Approach

Actual tools, or observed social norms aids in understanding what to think, and how Imitation, instructions, or collaboration Language: precious tool to pass information

Key Aspect of Vigotskys Theory

Zone of Proximal-Development: Difference in how a child works alone or with help Scaffolding: increasing own abilities by getting help from someone else, for a large task Cooperative Learning, rather than child-centred learning

Developmental Psychology: Cognitive Development

Discuss how social and environmental variables may affect cognitive development. Rikki Ignacio

Variables I will discuss

Poverty Diet Educational Environment

Educational Environment/Poverty
Poor nutrition, poverty-related health problems, home environment, parenting practices, and living in poor neighborhoods with high levels of crime and unemployment are all factors that may impact cognitive development in children and influence the possibility of education.
Wertheimer (2003) found that children from poor families were less likely to be identified as academically gifted, more likely to repeat a year in school, less likely to participate in extracurricular activities, and more likely to suffer from learning disabilities and developmental delays when compared to children who are not living in poverty.

Cognitive researchers found that poverty is one of the major risk factors in childrens cognitive development An economist named Paul Krugman (2008) commented on the findings from neuroscientists. Children growing up in very poor families with a low social status experience levels of stress hormones that may impair brain development and cognitive function Also, in 2006 17.4% of children in the US live below the poverty line Krugman argued that children born to the poorest parents have an almost 50% risk of remaining in that position (particularly true for children from ethnic minorities)

Educational Environment/Poverty
Referring to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 1/3 of children from low-income communities who enter kindergarten are behind their peers; in their 4th year of elementary school 50% of these children do not meet the reading proficiency. Generally children who suffer rom poverty have a worse academic performance than that of children who are not impoverished; they are less likely to enter university; and more likely to become teen parents and to be unemployed.

Pungello et. Al (2006)

Described the benefits of the longitudinal Abecedarian Project Between 1972 and 1977, the program enrolled 111 infants; around of the children were chosen at random to participate in early educational intervention, and the rest represent a control group This program was offered to children from poor families; the children received all-day center based care throughout the year before entering Kindergarten The children are still being followed today

Pungello et. Al (2008)

The program consisted of educational games focused on developing cognitive and linguistic skills Each child was offered adult to child intervention (e.g. talking with the child and showing them pictures or toys) The results showed that the program had beneficial effects in terms of cognitive development and many other areas

The effects of undernourishment can begin even before a child is born

Pregnant women who are undernourished are likely to give birth to underweight babies who are especially at risk for impaired brain development


Research in the US shows that poor children are more likely to experience stunted growth and problems with cognitive development than more privileged children

Inadequate food intake limits childrens ability to learn Children who are chronically undernourished become less active and show less interest in their social environment and exhibit less emotional expression If children are given appropriate food and stimulation, it can modify cognitive impairment caused by earlier malnutrition

Maslows Hierarchy of Needs

According to Ernesto Pollit (Professor of pediatrics at the University of California) nutrition and prenatal care for pregnant women, school breakfast programs, and special food supplement programs fro women and children have positive effects on the cognitive development of children

According to researchers the exact link between socio-economic background and individual development is not fully understood. There is a cumulative effect of positive or negative factors related to socio-economic factors. Individuals from more privileged homes have greater education opportunities because of increased access to financial resources (e.g. paying for higher education) more role models, and greater parental expectation than children from less privileged backgrounds.

Gray, not Black and White

Early adverse experiences do not necessarily determine the life path of an individual Werner and Smith (1992) carried out a longitudinal study of high-risk children and found that 1/3 adjusted well to adult life Real life connection: Liz Murray (Homeless to Harvard)

Evaluating theories of the cognitive development

Piagets theory incorporated 4 different stages for when individuals reach a new stage of knowledge
His findings were based on his own children and a distinct method, clinical interview

Criticisms do exist for Piagets theory

There may be a bias towards various aspects He only focused on his children a small sample which cannot be generalized

Adaptation can either be assimilation or accommodation

Assimilation: New information is added to old schemas Accommodation: Schemas have to be changed, and some new ones are made

Vigotsky believes that cultural and social aspects affect a childs ability to learn
A child can either learn alone or with help, preferably with help in certain tasks Unlike Piaget, he believes that its more of a cooperative learning

Psychological Studies Relevant to Developmental Psychology

Studies in developmental psychology vary, but the most commonly used are longitudinal and cross-sectional. Common limitations: often overlook sociocultural factors Common strength: typically replicable Its important that the study connects cognitive development with age, so that developmental psychology can be better understood.

Discuss how social and environmental variables may affect cognitive development.
Some social and environmental factors that were discussed that may affect cognitive development are poverty, diet, and educational environment. Poverty is one of the major risk factors that can affect cognitive development because of the levels of stress and lack of financial support which impairs one's abilities to reach their full cognitive potential. The factor of educational environment is closely tied to poverty because generally, children from poverty have worse academic performance in comparison to children who are not impoverished. Diet can affect a person's cognitive development because malnourishment can cause stunted growth and less interest in interaction with social environment which limits a person's ability to learn. Since it has been shown through longitudinal studies, not all people who were born into poverty or into an unstimulating environment have difficulty adjusting to adulthood; there are a sufficient amount successful cases as well.