Middle and Late Childhood
Cognitive Development: Concrete Operations
Piaget believed that around the age of 7, children enter the
concrete operational stage.
Concrete operations: new forms of reasoning
An operation is a mental action that is coordinated with other
mental actions as part of a system.
Concrete: Operations relate directly to tangible objects and
thoughts about objects (not to abstract propositions or possible
future states of affairs).
Concrete operations transform all aspects of psychological
functioning, according to Piaget. For example, children become
skilled at taking intentions into account (morality).
A number of problem-solving tasks have been developed in order to
diagnose presence or absence of concrete operational thinking.
Conservation - > understanding that some properties of an
object or substance remain the same even when its appearance
is altered in some superficial way.
Conservation of liquid (continuous quantity):
Experimenter: "Are the amounts of liquid in the two glasses the
Experimenter pours the contents of one of the glasses into a
third glass that is taller and thinner. The liquid rises higher in the
Experimenter: "Does the new glass contain more liquid than the
old glass, does it contain the same amount, or does it contain
3- and 4-year-old children - > the taller glass has more water.
5- to 6 year-old children - > transitional stage.
8 year olds children - > acquired the concept of conservation.
Although obvious to adults, preoperational children lack
A lack of conservation demonstrates an inability to mentally
Identity: "They were equal to start with and nothing was added, so they
are the same.”
Compensation: "The liquid is higher, but the glass is thinner."
Reversibility: "If you pour it back, you'll see that it's the same.”
Addition/Subtraction: "You did not add anything. You did not take
These ways of understanding indicate that children have attained a
new stage of cognitive development.
Piaget: They are now capable of concrete operations.
Conservation of mass
Conservation of number
Conservation of area
13 red plastic chips (ten round and three square chips) and 6 white
plastic chips (three round and three square).
Entire collection of plastic chips in disarray - > ascertain child's
Then the child is asked to lay all the white chips off to the side so that
only the red chips remain.
Experimenter: "In this arrangement are there now more red chips or
more round chips?”
Concrete operational answer:
"There are more red ones because they are all red"
There are more red ones, because the round ones and the square
ones together are more than the round ones alone”
"There are more red ones, because the square chips are in there
Cats / animals
Roses / flowers
Volkswagen / cars
Boys or girls / children
Lego blocks / toys
People from Toronto / people from Canada
Investigation procedures and instructions: "What do you think? Are
there more Volkswagens or are there more cars?"
“How do you know that? Can you tell me how you know that?”
Concrete operational justification
"There are more cars, because they are all cars."
"There are more cars, because cars don't come only from Volkswagen,
but from companies like Ford too."
"There are more cars, because there are lots more cars than just
Piaget and Education
Take a constructivist approach.
Consider the child’s knowledge and level of thinking.
Turn the classroom into a setting of exploration and discovery.
Criticisms of Piaget
Stages -> Horizontal decalage
Estimates of children’s competence
Culture and education
What Is Intelligence?
Intelligence is verbal ability, problem-solving skills, and the ability to
adapt to and learn from life’s everyday experiences.
Intelligence cannot be directly measured.
The Wechsler Scales
David Wechsler developed tests to assess students’
The Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-
Revised (WPPSI-R) for ages 4-6½
The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) for
The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS).
The Wechsler scales provide an overall IQ and yield verbal and
Gardner’s Eight Frames of Mind
Conclusions (not shared by all psychologists):
1. Human intelligent life is too multifaceted to be represented by
a single number. IQ is an artificial psychological-mathematical
2. Intelligence can be conceptualized in many different ways.
3. IQ is not a constant (Flynn effect).
4. Some part of individual differences in performance on IQ tests
can be attributed to heritability (as statistically conceptualized).
5. Significant differences between the average IQ scores of
"African Americans" and "white Americans" cannot be attributed
to inherited differences.
6. IQ tests measure only a small part of what is significant in
7. IQ tests are not culture-fair.
8. IQ tests may help when it comes to extremes and as a
9. If you use IQ tests do so in order to help and not in order to
sort and label.
10. Psychologists must move to something more essential.
Giftedness & Creativity
People who are gifted have above-average intelligence (an
IQ of 120 or higher) and/or superior talent for something.
Creativity is the ability to think about something in novel and
unusual ways and to come up with unique solutions to
Achievment Motivation & School
10000-15000 hours in classrooms by graduation.
Children entering 1st grade take up a new role, interact and
develop relationships with new significant others, adopt new
reference groups, and develop new standards for judging
School provides children with a rich source of new ideas to
shape their sense of self.
There is emerging concern about new evidence showing that
early schooling proceeds mainly on the basis of negative
Weiner's Attribution Theory:
Four possible causes of success or failure:
Ability (or thereof) (internal locus of control)
Effort (internal locus of control)
Task difficulty (external locus of control)
Luck (either good or bad) (external locus of control)
Children with an internal locus of control assume that they are
personally responsible for what happens to them.
Children with an external locus of control believe that their
outcomes depend more on luck, fate, or the actions of others.
Children with an internal locus of control earn higher grades and
scores on academic achievement tests than children with an
external locus of control do.
Stable Ability Task
Unstable Effort Luck
It is not always adaptive to attribute what happens to internal
Is it healthy to conclude from a failure that a child is seriously
lacking in ability?
Before age 7: Children tend to be unrealistic optimists who think
that they have the ability to succeed in almost any novel task.
Age 8 to 12: Children begin to distinguish effort from ability.
Teachers place more and more emphasis on ability appraisals.
Children use social comparison to appraise their outcomes - >
students begin to distinguish effort from ability and to make
causal attributions for their successes and failures.
Dweck's Learned-Helplessness Theory
Carol Dweck and her colleagues find that middle-school children clearly
differ in the attributions they offer for their achievement outcomes,
particularly for their failures.
Mastery oriented: Children attribute their successes to their high ability
but tend to externalize the blame for their failures ("That test was
ambiguous and unfair") or to attribute them to unstable causes that they
can easily overcome ("I'll do better if I try harder").
Learned helplessness orientation: Children attribute their successes to
the unstable factors of hard work or luck. Yet they attribute their failures
to a stable and internal factor (lack of ability - > low expectations - >
Children who display this learned helplessness syndrome might be
highly talented students. Learned helplessness may persist over time
and undermine the child's academic performance.
How does learned helplessness develop?
Parents and teachers - > helpless achievement orientation:
Praising the child for being neat or for working hard when child
succeeds but criticizing lack of ability when child fails.
4-6-year-olds can begin to develop a helpless orientation.
Parents and teachers praise the child's abilities when she
succeeds but emphasize lack of effort when she fails - > the
child may conclude that she is certainly smart enough and
would do even better if she tried harder - > mastery-orientation.
Experiment: strikingly different attributional styles were created
in less than one hour.
Therapy: Attribution Retraining.
Dweck - > children who had become helpless after failing a series of
tough math problems - > two "therapies."
(a) A success-only therapy - > worked problems they could solve - >
tokens for successes.
(b) Attribution retraining. Were also told after each of several
prearranged failures that they had not worked hard enough and should
have tried harder - > failures - > lack of effort rather than a lack of
Results: Helpless children in the attribution-retraining condition now
performed much better on the tough math problems they had initially
failed. Attributed their outcome to a lack of effort and tried harder.
Children in the success-only condition showed no such improvements,
giving up once again after failing the original problems. So merely
showing helpless children that they are capable of succeeding is not
Recommendations: Parents and teachers should praise the child's
abilities when child succeeds. Not suggesting that failures reflect a lack
of ability. Authoritative parenting.
Students from Low Socioeconomic Backgrounds
Many children in poverty face problems at home and at school that
present barriers to their learning.
Many schools of children from impoverished backgrounds attend have
fewer resources than do the schools in higher-income neighborhoods.
Schools in low-income areas are more likely to encourage rote learning
rather than thinking skills.
Many of these schools provide students with sub-standard learning
Ethnicity in Schools (USA)
The school experiences of students from different ethnic groups
School segregation is still a factor in the education of children of
color in the U.S.
John Ogbu proposed the view that ethnic minority students are
placed in a position of subordination and exploitation in the
American educational system.
He believes students of color have inferior educational
opportunities, are exposed to educators who have low academic
expectations of them, and encounter negative stereotypes.
Ethnic Differences in Academic Achievement
Why do differences exist?
Parental attitudes and involvement.
Minority parents may value education or encourage school
achievement as much as other parents do.
However, minority parents are often less knowledgeable about
the school system and less involved in many school activities.
Ethnic Differences in Academic Achievement
Patterns of parenting and peer influences.
Positive influence on academic achievement is often
undermined by peers.
In USA: Asian Americans are expected to be bright and
hardworking, whereas African-American and Latino students
from low-income neighborhoods are expected to perform poorly
Teachers are not immune to stereotypes!
Pygmalion effect: Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968)
Strategies for Improving Relations Between Ethnically Diverse
Encourage students to have positive personal contact with diverse other
Encourage students to engage in perspective taking.
Help students think critically and be emotionally intelligent when cultural
issues are involved.
View the school and community as a team to help support teaching efforts.
Cross-Cultural Comparisons of Achievement
In a cross-national comparison of 9- to 13-year-old students, the U.S.
finished 13th out of 15 in science, and 15th out of 16 in math
In this study, Korean and Taiwanese students finished first and second,
Studies have shown Asian students consistently outperform American
Reasons for Cross-Cultural Differences
Research found Asian teachers spent more of their time teaching math
than did American teachers.
Asian students were in school an average of 240 days a year,
compared with 178 days in the U.S.
American parents had much lower expectations for their children’s
education than Asian parents.
American parents were more likely to believe that their children’s
achievement was due to innate ability, and they were less likely to help
them with their homework.
Education and language experts continue to debate how
children should be taught to read.
The whole-language approach stresses that reading instruction
should parallel children’s natural language learning, and that
reading materials should be whole and meaningful.
The basic-skills-and-phonetics approach emphasizes that
reading instruction should teach phonetics and its basic rules for
translating written symbols into sounds, and early reading
instruction should involve simplified materials.
Findings on Bilingual Education
Researchers have found that bilingualism does not interfere with
performance in either language.
Children who are fluent in two languages perform better on tests
of attentional control, concept formation, analytical reasoning,
cognitive flexibility, and cognitive complexity.
Bilingual children are also more conscious of spoken and written
language structure, and are better at noticing errors of grammar
Bilingual children in a number of countries have been found to
perform better on intelligence tests.
Amount of Television Watching by Children
Children not only learn in school but also from TV.
In the 1990s, children averaged 11-28 hours of television per
week, which is more than for any other activity except sleep.
Considerably more children in the North-America than their
counterparts in other developed countries watch television
for long periods.
A special concern is the extent to which children are
exposed to violence and aggression on television, even in
How do children learn by observation?
Bandura: observational learning and instruction; vicarious
reinforcement; vicarious punishment; imitation; selective imitation;
counterimitation; abstract modeling.
1. Children saw in the model-rewarded condition an adult give
the aggressive model some candy and a soft drink for a
2. Children in the model-punished condition saw a second adult
scold and spank the model for beating up on Bobo.
3. Children in the no-consequence condition simply saw the
model behave aggressively.
Children in the model-rewarded and no-consequence conditions
imitated more of the model's aggressive acts than children who
saw the model punished. Children have learned novel
aggressive responses without being reinforced.
Effects of Television on Children’s Aggression
Several studies have demonstrated the relationships
between the amount of violence viewed on television and
subsequent aggressive and violent behavior.
These studies are correlational, thus the only conclusion can
be that television violence is associated with aggressive
behavior, not that it causes aggressive behavior.
Many experts argue that TV violence can induce aggressive
or antisocial behavior in children.
Reciprocal link: Viewing TV violence increases children's
aggressive tendencies, which stimulates interest in violent
programming, which promotes further aggression.
Mean-world beliefs: Tendency to view the world as a violent
place inhabited by people who typically rely on aggressive
solutions to their interpersonal problems.
Desensitize children to violence: Make them less emotionally
upset by violent acts and more willing to tolerate them in real
Effects of Television on Children’s Prosocial Behavior
Television can teach children that it is better to behave in positive,
prosocial ways than in negative, antisocial ways.
Children who watched episodes of “Sesame Street” that reflected
positive social interchanges copied the behaviors and, in later
social situations, applied the prosocial lessons they had learned.
Television and Cognitive Development
Positive influences: presenting motivating educational programs,
increasing information about the world beyond children’s immediate
environment, and providing models of prosocial behavior.
Regular television is negatively related to children’s creativity,
however, educational programming may promote creativity and
imagination due to its slower pace and coordination of video and
Children's Reactions to Commercial Messages
Young children do rarely understand manipulative (selling) intent
By ages 9-11, most children realize that ads are designed to
persuade and sell, and by 13-14, they have acquired a healthy
skepticism about product claims and advertising in general.
Nevertheless, adolescents and adults are often persuaded by
the ads they see.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
ADHD is a disability in which children consistently show one or more of
the following characteristics over a period of time:
The disorder occurs as much as 4-9 times as much in boys as in girls.
Students with ADHD have a failure rate in school that is 2-3 times that
of other students.
Causes of ADHD
Definitive causes of ADHD have not been found.
Pre- and postnatal abnormalities may be a cause.
Possible low levels of certain neurotransmitters have been
Heredity is considered a contributor, as 30-50% of children with
the disorder have a sibling or parent who has it.
Environmental toxins such as lead could contribute to ADHD.
Treatment of ADHD
Many experts recommend a combination of academic,
behavioral, and medical interventions to help ADHD students
better learn and adapt.
The intervention requires cooperation and effort on the part of
the parents, school personnel, and health-care professionals.
Ritalin is a controversial stimulant given to control behavior.
In many children, Ritalin actually slows down the nervous
system and behavior.