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					  Chapter 5

Cognitive Development in Infancy

  Learning Objectives                                                 96

  Key Terms and Concepts                                              96

  Chapter Outline                                                     97

  Lecture Suggestions                                                101
         The Language Acquisition Debate
         Infantile Amnesia

  Class Activities                                                   103

  Supplemental Reading                                               104

  Prentice Hall Transparencies                                       105
         #9 Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development
         #28 The Substages of Piaget's Sensorimotor Period
         #29 Assimilation and Accommodation
         #30 The Development of Play with Objects
         #31 Piaget's View of the Development of Object Permanence
         #32 Language Development in Infancy

  Multimedia Ideas                                                   106

  Handouts                                                           107

  Chapter 5

  Cognitive Development
  in Infancy

Learning Objectives
  After reading Chapter 5, students will know

         what the fundamental features of Piaget’s theories of cognitive development are.

         how infants process information.

         how infant intelligence is measured.

         what processes children use to learn language.

         how children influence adults’ language.

Key Terms and Concepts
  Scheme                                               Cross-modal transference
  Assimilation                                         Language
  Accommodation                                        Prelinguistic communication
  Sensorimotor stage (of cognitive                     Babbling
  development)                                         Holophrases
  Circular reaction                                    Telegraphic speech
  Goal-directed behavior                               Underextension
  Object permanence                                    Overextension
  Mental representation                                Referential style
  Deferred imitation                                   Expressive style
  Information-processing approaches                    Learning theory approach
  Memory                                               Nativist approach
  Infantile amnesia                                    Universal grammar
  Developmental quotient                               Language-acquisition device (LAD)
  Bayley scales of Infant Development                  Infant-directed speech
  Visual-recognition memory

Chapter Outline
I.   Piaget's (1896 - 1980) Approach to Cognitive Development
         A. Knowledge is the product of direct motor behavior in infants.
         B. All children pass through a series of universal stages in a fixed order.
                  1. sensorimotor
                  2. preoperational
                  3. concrete operations
                  4. formal operations
         C. Both content and quality of knowledge increase.
         D. Focus is on change in understanding that occurs as a child moves through stages.
         E. Movement through stages occurs with physical maturation and experience with
         F. Piaget believed that infants have mental structures called SCHEMES, organized
                  patterns of sensorimotor functioning.
         G. Two principles underlie the growth in children's schemes:
                  1. ASSIMILATION is when people understand an experience in terms of their
                           current stage of cognitive development and way of thinking.
                  2. ACCOMMODATION is change in existing ways of thinking that occur in
                           response to encounters with new stimuli or events.
                  age 2), Piaget’s initial major stage of cognitive development, can be broken
                  down into six substages.
                  1. Substage 1: simple reflexes
                           a) first month
                           b) various reflexes determine the infant's interaction with world.
                  2. Substage 2: first habits and primary circular reactions
                           a) A CIRCULAR REACTION is an activity that permits the
                                   construction of cognitive schemes through repetition of a chance
                                   motor event.
                           b) 1 - 4 months
                           c) coordination of actions
                           d) primary circular reactions are the infant’s repeating of interesting or
                                   enjoyable actions on his or her own body.
                  3. Substage 3: secondary circular reactions
                           a) 4 - 8 months
                           b) begins to act on world (e.g., rattles rattle)
                           c) secondary circular reactions are repeated actions meant to bring
                                   about a desirable consequence on the outside world.
                           d) vocalization increases and imitation begins.
                  4. Substage 4: coordination of secondary circular reactions
                           a) 8 - 12 months
                           b) employ GOAL-DIRECTED BEHAVIOR, where several schemes
                                   are combined and coordinated to generate a single act to solve a
                           c) development of OBJECT PERMANENCE, the realization that
                                   people and objects exist even when they cannot be seen.
                  5. Substage 5: tertiary circular reactions
                           a) 12 - 18 months

                       b) tertiary circular reactions are the deliberate variation of actions to
                                bring desirable consequences.
              6. Substage 6: beginning of thought
                       a) 18 - 24 months
                       b) capacity for MENTAL REPRESENTATION, an internal image of
                                a past event or object.
                                (1) permits child to understand causality
                                (2) child gains ability to pretend and DEFERRED
                                         IMITATION, in which a person who is no longer
                                         present is imitated by children who have witnessed a
                                         similar act.
      I. Appraising Piaget: Support and Challenges
              1. Most developmentalists agree that Piaget's descriptions of how cognitive
                       development proceeds during infancy are accurate.
                       a) Piaget was a master observer.
                       b) Studies show that children do learn about the world by acting on
                                objects in their environment.
              2. However, specific aspects of Piaget's theory have been criticized.
                       a) Some developmentalists question the stage concept, thinking
                                development is more continuous.
                       b) Piaget's notion that development is grounded in motor activity ignores
                                the importance of infant's sensory and perceptual abilities.
                       c) Recent work shows object permanence may occur as early as 3 1/2
                       d) Imitation may occur earlier than Piaget suggested.
                       e) Some development is universal, and some appears to be subject to
                                cultural variations.
II.   INFORMATION-PROCESSING APPROACHES seek to identify the way that
      individuals take in, use, and store information.
      A. Encoding, Storage, and Retrieval: The Foundations of Information Processing
              1. Encoding is the process by which information is initially recorded in a form
                       usable to memory.
              2. Storage refers to the maintenance of material saved in memory.
              3. Retrieval is the process by which material in memory storage is located,
                       brought into awareness, and used.
              4. Automatization is the degree to which an activity requires attention.
                       a) Processes that require little attention are automatic.
                       b) Processes that require large amounts of attention are controlled.
                       c) Automatization processes help children in their initial encounters with
                                the world by “automatically” priming them to process
                                information in particular ways.
      B. MEMORY is the process by which information is initially recorded, stored, and
              1. The ability to habituate implies some memory.
              2. Infant's memories improve with age.
              3. Research suggests that memory during infancy is dependent upon the
                       hippocampus and that at a later age involves additional structures of the

              4. Research supports the notion of INFANTILE AMNESIA, the lack of
                      memory for experiences that occurred prior to three years of age.
                      a) Although memories are stored from early infancy, they cannot be
                               easily retrieved.
                      b) Early memories are susceptible to interference from later events.
                      c) Memories are sensitive to environmental context.
       C. Individual Differences in Intelligence: Is One Infant Smarter Than Another?
              1. Infant intelligence, like adult intelligence, is difficult to define.
              2. Arnold Gesell formulated the DEVELOPMENTAL QUOTIENT, an
                      overall developmental score that relates to performance in four domains:
                       motor skills, language use, adaptive behavior, and personal-social.
                      a) He compared babies’ performance at different ages to learn what
                               behaviors were most common at a particular age.
              3. BAYLEY SCALES OF INFANT DEVELOPMENT are a measure that
                      evaluates an infant's development from 2 to 30 months.
                      a) Mental Scale
                               (1) senses
                               (2) perception
                               (3) memory
                               (4) learning
                               (5) problem solving
                               (6) language
                      b) Motor Scale
                               (1) gross motor skills
                               (2) fine motor skills
                      c) Like Gesell, Bayley’s yields a developmental quotient (DQ).
              4. These normative scales are useful in identifying infants who are significantly
                      behind their peers but are not good at predicting future behavior.
              5. Contemporary approaches to infant intelligence measure how quickly infants
                      process information.
                      a) VISUAL-RECOGNITION MEMORY is a measure of memory
                               and recognition of a stimulus that has been previously seen.
                      b) CROSS-MODAL TRANSFERENCE is the ability to identify a
                               stimulus that has previously only been experienced through one
                               sense using another sense.
                      c) These measures correlate moderately well with later measures of
              6. Assessing Information-Processing Approaches
                      a) Rather than focusing on broad explanations of the qualitative changes
                               that occur, as Piaget’s does, information processing looks at
                               quantitative change.
                      b) Information processing approaches see cognitive growth as more
                               gradual, step-by-step.
                      c) Information processing approaches are often able to use precise
                               measures of cognitive ability.
III.   The Roots of Language
       A. LANGUAGE is the systematic, meaningful arrangement of symbols, and provides
              the basis for communication.

B. Language has several formal characteristics that must be mastered as linguistic
      competence is developed.
      1. Phonology refers to the basic sounds of language, called phonemes, that can
               be combined to produce words and sentences.
      2. Morphemes are the smallest language unit that has meaning.
      3. Semantics are the rules that govern the meaning of words and sentences.
C. Language is closely tied to the way infants think and how they understand the world.
      1. Linguistic comprehension is the understanding of speech.
      2. Linguistic production is the use of language to communicate.
      3. Comprehension precedes production.
      4. Infants show PRELINGUISTIC COMMUNICATION through sounds,
               facial expressions, gestures, imitations, and other non-linguistic means.
               a) BABBLING is when infants make speechlike but meaningless
                        sounds at about 2 - 3 months continuing to about 1 year.
               b) Babbling is a universal phenomenon.
               c) Babbling begins with easy sounds (b - p) and proceeds to more
                        complex sounds (d - t).
               d) By age 6 months, babbling differs according to the language to which
                        the infant is exposed.
      5. First words are generally spoken between 10 and 14 months.
               a) First words are typically HOLOPHRASES, one-word utterances
                        that depend on the particular context in which they are used to
                        determine meaning.
               b) By 15 months the average child has a vocabulary of 15 words.
               c) Between 16 and 24 months a child's vocabulary increases to 100
      6. by 18 months, infants are linking words in sentences using TELEGRAPHIC
               SPEECH where words not critical to the message are left out.
               a) UNDEREXTENSION, using words too restrictively, is common.
               b) OVEREXTENSION, using words too broadly, is also common.
               c) Some infants use a REFERENTIAL STYLE of language use in
                        which language is used primarily to label objects.
               d) Others use an EXPRESSIVE STYLE, of language use in which
                        language is used primarily to express feelings and needs about
                        oneself and others.
D. The origins of language development
      1. LEARNING THEORY APPROACH posits that language acquisition
               follows the basic laws of reinforcement and conditioning.
               a) Through the process of shaping, language becomes more and more
                        similar to adult speech.
               b) This theory does not explain how children learn grammar.
               c) It does not explain how children produce novel phrases, sentences,
                        and constructions, such as nonsense words using correct
      2. An alternative theory is the NATIVIST APPROACH, which proposes that a
               genetically determined, innate mechanism directs language development.
               a) Proposed by Noam Chomsky.

                         b) Chomsky argues that all the world’s languages share a similar
                                 underlying structure called UNIVERSAL GRAMMAR.
                         c) The brain is wired with a LANGUAGE-ACQUISITION DEVICE
                                 (LAD), a neural system of the brain hypothesized to permit the
                                 understanding of language.
                         d) Critics argue that since primates can be taught to talk, the uniqueness
                                 of human linguistic capacity is called into question.
                         e) Other critics suggest that we must identify mechanisms other than the
                                 LAD or learning theory principles to fully understand language
                3. An alternative approach combines both schools of thought, the interactionist
                         perspective, which suggests that language development is produced
                         through a combination of genetically determined predispositions and
                         environmental events.
          E. Speaking to Children: The Language of Infant-Directed Speech
                1. INFANT-DIRECTED SPEECH, a type of speech directed towards infants,
                         characterized by short, simple sentences.
                         a) This type was previously called motherese.
                                 (1) Pitch of voice becomes higher.
                                 (2) Intonation may be singsong.
                                 (3) Typically only used during first year.
                         b) Infants seem more receptive to this type of speech.
                         c) Use of this type of speech is related to the early appearance of words.
                2. Research shows that parents use different language for boys than for girls.
                         a) They use diminutives more with girls, warmer phrases and more
                                 emotional referents and tend to make refusals less direct.
                         b) Boys tend to hear firmer, clearer language.

Lecture Suggestions
  The Language Acquisition Debate
  Do we learn to talk by hearing others talk and imitating them? Or are our brains "hard-wired,"
  predisposing us to learn whatever language we hear spoken? These questions reflect the
  hypotheses of the two major theories of how children acquire language: the Learning (nurture)
  perspective (Skinner, Bandura, and others) and the Nativist (nature) perspective (Chomsky).

  The learning perspective stresses that language is acquired through imitation of adults (Bandura)
  and through reinforcement of correct language usage (Skinner). Evidence for this perspective
  comes from observations that children only learn the language they hear spoken around them.
  Furthermore, research on deaf children and special cases (like Genie who was never spoken to or
  allowed to speak) shows that without special training these children never learn to speak. In fact,
  children even learn the "accent" of the region in which they live (e.g., southern, Bostonian, etc.),
  which seems to support the idea that imitation plays a role in language acquisition. It is also
  obvious that vocabulary increases with imitation and reinforcement. (Just think of how easily
  children learn songs on TV or repeat swear words!) Unfortunately, there is little evidence that
  parents or other adults reinforce correct grammar. For example, when a young child says "Me

cookie." or "I ranned to the house.," parents know just what the child means and do not correct the

Thus, the Learning perspective does not account for how children learn syntax, the structure and
rules of language. Nor does it explain why, the world over, children's language acquisition
progresses in similar patterns from babbling to holophrases to telegraphic speech to over- and

The Nativist perspective (Chomsky) hypothesizes that human brains have a Language Acquisition
Device (LAD) that allows children to develop an implicit theory of language and to understand the
meaning of what they hear. In addition, the Nativist approach purports a "critical or sensitive
period" during which language must be learned (see Lenneberg and Sacks books in Supplemental
Reading). Several lines of evidence support Chomsky's views. First, despite years of trying to
teach chimpanzees to speak, it appears that only humans show the ability to acquire syntax without
formal training. Second, humans have special regions in the left hemisphere of the brain which are
necessary for language. Broca's area controls language production, and Wernicke's area is
responsible for interpreting language. If either of these is damaged, language is impaired.
Additionally, recovery from brain injury is less complete after puberty, supporting the sensitive
period hypothesis. Second languages are learned without an accent in most cases only before
puberty, which also supports the sensitive period hypothesis.

Several limitations of the Nativist approach include: no universal grammar has been found to
exist; complete mastery of grammar continues throughout life, which argues against a sensitive
period; and finally, Chomsky's theory does not account for how children learn to sustain
meaningful conversations or how cognitive ability is related to language acquisition.

The Interactionist perspective replaces the learning/nativist debate with a view that combines
biology, cognition, and social experience; in other words, "a native capacity, a strong desire to
interact with others, and a rich linguistic and social environment combine to assist children in
discovering the functions and regularities of language" (Berk, p. 357)


        Chomsky, N. (1959). A review of B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior. Language, 35, 26-

        Begley, S. (February 19, 1996). Your child's brain. Newsweek. 55-62.

        Berk, L. (1994). Child Development (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

        Pines, M. (September, 1981). The civilizing of Genie. Psychology Today. 28-32.

        Skinner, B. F. (1957). Verbal Behavior. East Norwalk, CT: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Infantile Amnesia

   Piaget told the story of his earliest memory: of being nearly kidnapped when he was 2 years old.
   He could recall sitting in his carriage watching his nurse protect him from a kidnapper. He
   recalled her getting scratched on the face. He even remembered the police wearing a short coat
   and carrying a white stick chasing the kidnapper away. When Piaget was 15, his old nurse wrote
   to his parents and confessed that she had made up the whole story. Thus, it seems that early
   memories are tricky. In fact, most psychologists believe that early memories are hazy or
   nonexistent before the age of 3.

   This phenomenon is called infantile amnesia. Many people claim they can recall events from
   before 3, however, experts believe, like Piaget, that their "memories" are reconstructions based on
   family photos, stories, dreams, and their imaginations. Why can't we remember early events from
   infancy when we obviously have memories for names, faces, and procedures from those times?
   Freud believed that children do not recall early memories because these memories are traumatic, as
   children are repressing sexual and aggressive urges. Another theory is that the area of the brain
   where events are stored, the hippocampus, is not well developed in infancy. Cognitive
   developmentalists further believe that since language is required to store and retrieve memories,
   infants, with only emerging language skills, cannot yet form the conceptual categories, or schemas,
   necessary to organize and retrieve memories. Finally, some developmental psychologists believe
   that a sense of self is crucial for storing and recalling memories about one's experiences. Research
   indicates that a sense of self does not emerge until the second year of life.


          Nelson, K. (1992). Emergence of autobiographical memory at age 4. Human
   Development, 35, 172-177.
          Howe, M. L. & Courage, M. L. (1993). On resolving the enigma of infantile amnesia.
   Psychological Bulletin, 113, 305-326.

Class Activities
   If you can get a copy of the current Bayley Scales of Infant Development-II and one or two infants
   (preferably a young infant and an older infant), you can show your class how infants' intelligence
   is measured. Have the class take notes and write up their reaction to the demonstration.


           Bayley, N. (1969). Manual for the Bayley Scales of Infant Development. New York:
   Psychological Corp.
           Bayley, N. (1970). Development of mental abilities. In P. H. Mussen (Ed.), Manual of
   child psychology (3rd ed., Vol. 1). New York: Wiley.

   Learning Piaget’s terms: Assimilation and Accommodation
   Students have a difficult time understanding Piaget's terms assimilation and accommodation. To
   help them gain an understanding of these terms, divide your class into groups and have them think
   of examples of assimilation and accommodation in an infant's development. Then have the
   groups make a list of examples of these concepts at work in their own adult lives. Use Handout

  5-2 for this exercise. Have representatives from each group present their examples to the whole
  class. You can list their examples on the board or on an overhead.

  Testing for Object Permanence
  Using Handout 5-1, have students perform Piaget's object permanence exercises with two or more
  infants of varying ages. Students should share their findings with the class.

  Reflective Journal
  Use Handout 5-3 to help your students reflect on their intellectual growth during infancy.

Supplemental Reading
          Baillargeon, R. (October, 1994). How do infants learn about the physical world? Current
  Directions in Psychological Science. pp. 133-140.

          Berko-Gleason, J. (Ed.) (1993). The development of language. New York: Macmillan.

         Bower, T. G. R. (1989). The rational infant: Learning in infancy. New York: W. H.
  Freeman and Company.

         Curtiss, S. (1977). Genie: A psycholinguistic study of a modern day "wild child". New
  York: Academic Press
         A fascinating story about a young girl who was locked in a room for 13 years, during
         which time no one spoke to her. This true story provides some provocative evidence for
         the concept of "critical period" in language acquisition.

          Flavell, J. H. (1985). Cognitive Development (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice

         Hock, R. R. (1999). Out of sight, but not out of mind. In Forty studies that changed
  psychology: Explorations into the history of psychological research (3rd. ed.). Englewood Cliffs,
  NJ: Prentice Hall.
         A subsection of Chapter 5, Human Development in Hock's excellent book, this resource is
         a good distillation of Piaget's research and writing on object permanence. It includes
         actual citations of his observations of his children Laurent, Lucienne, and Jacqueline
         during their sensorimotor stage. Hock also discusses some of the criticisms of Piaget's

         Jacobs, S. H. (1992). Your baby's mind. Holbrook, MA: Bob Adams.
         A book that features learning games based on Piaget's six substages of sociomotor

          Lenneberg, E. H. (1967). Biological foundations of language. New York: John Wiley &
          Lenneberg was the first to put forth the theory of a "critical age" for acquiring language.

           Rice, M. L. (1989). Children's language acquisition. American Psychologist, 44(2), 149-

          Sacks, O. (1990). Seeing voices: A journey into the world of the deaf. New York:
   Harper Perennial.
          This extraordinary book by Sacks is full of information about how children learn language
          and the particular problems deaf children have learning language. He also discusses the
          controversy over learning sign language and spoken language or just sign language. Deaf
          children must learn sign language within a "critical period" just as speaking children must
          learn spoken language.

           Siegler, R. S. (1991). Children's thinking (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice

           Wynn, K. (August, 1992). Addition and subtraction by human infants. Nature. 749-750.

Prentice Hall Transparencies
   #9 Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development
          Use this transparency to review Piaget's entire theory putting the sensorimotor period into

   #28 The Substages of Piaget's Sensorimotor Period
         This useful table presents a detailed account of Piaget's first stage. The column presenting
         approximate ages shows the fact that each substage gets progressively longer as more
         complex skills are acquired.

   #29 Assimilation and Accommodation
         Both concepts are presented with an emphasis on infancy. Piaget stressed that these
         concepts are used throughout his theory.

   #30 The Development of Play with Objects
         The infant's ability to play with objects is illustrated as a progression beginning with
         simple manipulation at 9 months, learning that the object is unique at 12 months, using the
         object correctly at 15 to 18 months, and extending the use of the object to others (in this
         case a doll) at 21 months of age.

   #31 Piaget's View of the Development of Object Permanence
          This transparency deals specifically with Piaget's concept of object permanence and can be
          used in conjunction with transparency 30.

   #32 Language Development in Infancy
         This transparency presents the progression of language skills from 12 weeks to 24 months
         of age.
Multimedia Ideas

  Baby Talk (Media Guild, 1984, 49 minutes)
         Describes research on language acquisition and presents interviews with researchers in
         language such as Chomsky.

  A Baby’s World: The Language of Being (Discovery Communications, 1994, 60 minutes)
         This video explores cognitive and language development from ages 1 to 2 years. The back
         of the box reads: Human babies are less matured at birth than other species, but they
         quickly challenge their surroundings in an amazing display of both physical and verbal
         skills. Watch as children immediately learn to grasp objects and turn them into tools while
         learning strategies to make them work. Then, witness the baffling process of language
         acquisition, as toddlers use their own words to make themselves understood in ways we’ll
         never forget.

  Beginning Language (Insight Media, 1977, 30 minutes)
         Presents how language is acquired, including Premack's work with chimpanzees.

  Birth of Language (Insight Media, 1987, 60 minutes)
           A video about how language develops.

  Cognitive Development (Concept Media, 25 minutes)
          A video about Piaget's theory of infant cognitive development.

  The Infant Mind (Insight Media, 1992, 30 minutes)
          Introduces Piaget's theory about cognitive development in infants.

  Language (Insight Media, 1990, 30 minutes)
        Characteristics of language and language learning.

  Language Development (Concept Media, 22 minutes)
        Portrays the stages and sequence of language development.

  Language and Thinking (Insight Media, 1992, 30 minutes)
        A video on language acquisition.

  Out of the Mouths of Babes: The Acquisition of Language (Filmmakers Library, 28 minutes)
          A video on how language develops.

  Symbol Formation and the Acquisition of Language (Worlds of Children Series, University of
  Nebraska, 30 minutes)
         A video that explores how humans learn to use a symbolic system such as language to

Handout 5-1

See Class Activities for uses for this handout.

Handout 5-2

See Class Activities for uses for this handout.

Handout 5-3

Use this handout with the Reflective Journal exercise.

Handout 5-1

                                 OBJECT PERMANENCE EXERCISE

Observe two or more infants (6 months to 2 years). In a familiar setting for the infant, give the
infant one of his or her favorite toys. Record the infant's reactions.

Infant #1                        sex ______                        age ________

        1. While the infant is watching, partially hide toy.

        2. While the infant is watching, completely hide toy.

        3. With the infant watching, hide the toy under a cloth and then move the toy to another
        place that the infant can see.

        4. With the infant watching, hide the toy under a cloth. Move the toy to another hiding
        place, and then move the toy once again to a third hiding place. All hiding places should
        be in the view of the infant.

Infant #2                        sex ______                        age _________

        1. While the infant is watching, partially hide toy.

        2. While the infant is watching, completely hide toy.

        3. With the infant watching, hide the toy under a cloth and then move the toy to another
        place that the infant can see.

        4. With the infant watching, hide the toy under a cloth. Move the toy to another hiding
        place, and then move the toy once again to a third hiding place. All hiding places should
        be in the view of the infant.

On the back of this sheet, compare your findings with Piaget's theory of object permanence.

Handout 5-2

                               ASSIMILATION AND ACCOMMODATION

Define the concept of assimilation.

Define the concept of accommodation.

List several ways an infant (birth – 2 yrs) displays the use of assimilation.

List several ways an infant displays the use of accommodation.

List several ways adults display the use of assimilation.

List several ways adults display the use of accommodation.

Handout 5-3

                                   Reflective Journal Exercise #5

If possible, ask your parents to help you write about your cognitive development during the first
two years. (If they are not available, you can write about your own children or interview a parent
of an infant.) You can use the following questions to help you reflect.

What were your first words? What is your earliest memory? How old were you? Was there a
game you particularly liked to play, such as peek-a-boo or patty cake? What were your favorite
books? How did your parents try to stimulate your intellectual growth? Was your IQ ever tested?
 Was more than one language spoken at home? If so, which did you prefer to use?


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