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Cognitive Development in Infancy
Chapter 5
Robert S. Feldman

Looking Ahead
What are the fundamental features of Piaget’s theories of cognitive development?

How do infants process information?

How is infant intelligence measured?

By what processes do children learn to use language?

How do children influence adults’ language?

Key Elements of Piaget’s Theory
Jean Piaget’s theory of human cognitive development involves a succession of 4 stages through which children progress from birth to adolescence.

As humans move from one stage to another, the way they understand the world changes.

Key Elements of Piaget’s Theory
Development = physical maturation and exposure to relevant experiences
Schemes: organized mental structures that adapt and change with mental development
Basic building blocks of the way we understand the world
Earliest schemes are primarily limited to the reflexes such as sucking and rooting
What principles underlie this cognitive growth?
Assimilation: the process by which people understand an experience in terms of their current stage of cognitive development and way of thinking
Accommodation: takes place when child changes existing ways of thinking, understanding, or behaving in response to encounters with new stimuli or events
Earliest Stage of Cognitive Growth
Sensorimotor Period: the initial major stage of cognitive development, from birth to 2 years, can be broken down into six substages

Involves a gradual progression through simple reflexes, single coordinated activities, interest in the outside world, purposeful combinations of activities, manipulation of actions to produce desired outcomes, and symbolic thought.
What do you see?
Object Permanence

A Closer Look
Substage 6: Beginnings of Thought
18 months to 2 years
Capacity for mental representation or symbolic thought
Mental representation
Understanding causality
Ability to pretend
Deferred imitation
Assessing Piagetian Theory
Descriptions of child cognitive development accurate in many ways
Piaget was pioneering figure in field of development
Children learn by acting on environment
Broad outlines of sequence of cognitive development and increasing cognitive accomplishments are generally accurate

Substantial disagreement over validity of theory and many of its specific predictions
Stage conception questioned
Connection between motor development and cognitive development exaggerated
Object permanence can occur earlier under certain conditions
Onset of age of imitation questioned
Cultural variations not considered
What is information-processing?
Identifies the way that individuals take in, store, and use information

Involves quantitative changes in ability to organize and manipulate information

Increased sophistication, speed, and capacity in information processing characterize cognitive growth

Focuses on types of “mental programs” used when seeking to solve problems

What are the foundations of the IP approach?

How does cognition compute?
Encoding: the process by which information is initially recorded in a form usable to memory
Storage: the placement of material into memory
Retrieval: the process by which material in memory storage is located, brought into awareness, and used

Memory Capabilities in Infancy
Getting a kick out of that!
Kicking research demonstrates increase with age in memory capacities

Is infant memory qualitatively different from that in older children and adults?
Information is processed similarly throughout life span

Kind of information being processed changes and different parts of brain may be used
How long do memories last?
Researchers disagree on the age from which memories can be retrieved
Early studies infantile amnesia
Myers clear evidence of early memory

Physical trace of a memory in brain appears to be relatively permanent
Memories may not be easily, or accurately, retrieved

What role does language play in determining the way early memories are recalled?
So…do infants remember?
Theoretical possibility for interfered memories to remain intact from a very young

Most cases memories of personal experiences in infancy do not last into adulthood

Memories of personal experience seem not to become accurate before age 18 to 24 months
Individual Differences in Intelligence
Information-Processing Approaches
Infant information-processing speed may correlate most strongly with later intelligence
What is infant intelligence?
Infant Intelligence
Developmental Scales
Developmental quotient
Performance compared at different ages for significant variation from norms of given age
Four domains: motor skills, language use, adaptive behavior, personal-social

From Research to Practice
Taking the Einstein Out of Baby Einstein
Kaiser Family Foundation Report
Marketing of educational media for infants is far outpaced by research on its effectiveness
Correlational studies
Company reluctance to test claims
Beyond (or creating) Teletubbies!
What does the research reveal?
Effect on language learning
Infants do not learn language from rote repetition; social interaction and context needed
What constitutes appropriate use of educational media for infants?
From Sounds to Symbols
Fundamentals of Language
Comprehension and production

Another Look – Comprehension Precedes Production
Early Sounds and Communication Prelinguistic Communication
Repetition of sounds

See what I say…
Infants with hearing impairments
Babble with hands instead of voices
Gestural and verbal babbling activate same neural centers
What comes after “ba-ba-ba-ba”?
Progression from Simple to Complex

Exposure to speech sounds of particular language initially do not influence babbling
At 6 months babbling reflects of language of culture
Distinguishable from other language babbling

Combinations of sounds and gestures used to communicate
First Words
Increase at rapid rate
10 to 14 months = first word
15 months = 10 words
18 months = one-word stage ends
16 to 24 months = language explosion equally 50 to 400 words

What did that baby say?
What were your first words?
Look at Table 5-4 for the top 50 infant words.
Were you a top 50 baby?
Table 5-4
First Sentences
First sentences created around 8 to 12 months after first words
Indicate understanding of labels and relationships between these
Often observations rather than demands
Use order similar to adult speech with missing words
Telegraphic speech

Telegraphic Speech Revealed
Other Early Language Characteristics

Speaking in style and stylish speaking
Referential style

Expressive style
How does proficiency in language occur?
Origins of Language Development
Learning Theory Approaches: Language as a Learned Skill
Language acquisition follows the basic laws of reinforcement and conditioning
Through the process of shaping, language becomes more and more similar to adult speech
Counter-Arguments to Learning Theory Approach
Does not adequately explain how children readily learn rules of language

Does not account for how children move beyond specific heard utterances to produce novel phrases, sentences and constructions

Does not explain how young children can apply linguistic rules to nonsense words
Origins of Language Development
Nativist Approaches: Language as an
Innate Skill
Genetically determined, innate mechanism that directs the development of language

Children are born with innate capacity to use language, which emerges, more or less automatically, due to maturation.
Chomsky’s universal grammar and LAD
Assessing Chomsky’s Approach
Specific gene related to speech production identified
Language processing in infant brain structures similar to those in adult speech processing
Assessing Chomsky’s Approach
Uniqueness of speech countered by primate researchers
Even with genetic priming, language use still requires significant social experience to be used effectively
Origins of Language Development
Interactionist Approaches: Language as a Social Device
Specific course of language development is determined by the language to which children are exposed and reinforcement they receive for using language in particular ways
Social factors are key to development
Infant-Directed Speech
Style of verbal communication directed toward infants
Short, simple sentences
Higher pitch, increased range, varied intonation
Repetition of words and restricted topics
Sometimes amusing sounds that are not even words,
Little formal structure, similar to telegraphic speech
How does this speech change?
Infant-directed speech changes as children become older
Around the end of the first year, takes on more adult-like qualities
Sentences become longer and more complex, although individual words are still spoken slowly and deliberately
Pitch used to focus attention on important words
Does Cootsy-Coo Work?
Infant-directed speech plays an important role in infants’ acquisition of language
Occurs all over the world, though there are cultural variations
Preferred by newborns
Babies who are exposed to a infant-directed speech early in life seem to begin to use words and exhibit other forms of linguistic competence earlier
Developmental Diversity
Do people everywhere say “ba-ba-boo” to their infants?
Words differ but ways spoken are similar
Basic similarities across cultures and in some facets of language specific to particular types of interactions
Quantity of speech differ by cultures

What then do these similarities in infant-directed speech mean?
Boys will be boys and girls will be…sweethearts?

More firm, clear, and direct responses

Do you think men and women use different sorts of language?
Becoming an Informed Consumer of Development
Based upon findings of developmental researchers, infant cognitive development may be promoted by:

Providing infants the opportunity to explore the world

Being responsive to infants on both a verbal and a nonverbal level

Asking questions, listening to their responses, and providing further communication

Reading to infants

Keeping in mind that you don’t have to be with an infant 24 hours a day

Not pushing infants and don’t expect too much too soon