Lecture 1: Basic Concepts in Cognitive Development

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LECTURE 1: BASIC CONCEPTS IN
COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT
Dr. Neil H. Schwartz
Department of Psychology
Psych 353
PRELIMINARY ASSUMPTIONS
Experience is essential in the development of thinking
 It takes nearly 20 years to develop an adult nervous system
 Cognition develops quantitatively and qualitatively during the
life-span. That is,

•You don’t just know more but think quite differently over time.
•The changes take place by virtue of:
The developmental function- the form cognition takes over time
Individual differences-variations among people at any
given developmental period.
COGNITION: A CONCEPTUAL DESCRIPTION

It is what laypersons call thinking.

It is not directly observable, but implied from behavior.

It is real and it exists.

Cognition includes conscious and deliberate acts and nondeliberate processes.

It is comprised of different types of activities.
THOSE ACTIVITIES CONSIST OF:

acquiring, comprehending and modifying information.

developing, executing and evaluating plans. (macromechanism)

giving meaning to things we perceive. (micromechanism)

forming concepts and classifying stimuli. (micromechanism)
COGNITION: ITS DEVELOPMENT OVER TIME

Cognition has structure and function.

Cognition changes in both structure and function over
time.

Change is perpetual.

Developmental progression is an interaction of biology
and experience.

Developmental progression moves from simple to
complex, and incomplete to complete.

Development is an active process.
STRUCTURE
Refers to the framework of knowledge that underlies
behavior. Ex. knowledge comprised of how to put one leg
in front of another to walk or knowledge of how to solve a
calculus problem,
Or how to program a VCR or set the table for dinner.
Cognition organizes this knowledge.
It is probably a neural network, and network of networks.
FUNCTION
Refers to what we do with the cognitive
system.
Perception, memory, reasoning, judgment,
problem solving.
COGNITION: ITS DEVELOPMENT OVER TIME
Structure and function of cognition during development
is bi-directional.
 Environmental stimulation and actions of a structure
itself can change the structure.
 Changes in structure change the functions.
 Functions are limited by structures’ capability.


Function is necessary for development.

Aspects of development are inter-related and integrated.

Development is sequential but not continuous. It is
discontinuous.

Children will use a developmental accomplishment over
and over once it is acquired.

Children will give cues to their environment that they are ready
to move to the next developmental level.

Children will seek out stimulation in order to develop.
DEVELOPMENTAL FUNCTION & INDIVIDUAL
DIFFERENCES

Development is studied in stages and norms.

Important differences do exist between and within
individuals.
FIVE “TRUTHS” OF COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT
Cognitive development proceeds as a result of the
dynamic and reciprocal transaction of internal and
external factors;
 Cognitive development is constructed within social
context
 Cognitive development involves both stability and
plasticity over time;
 Cognitive development involves changes in the way
information is represented;
and
 Children develop increasing intentional control over their
behavior and cognition

ADAPTIVE CONSTRAINTS
1.
2.
3.
Representational – hardwired into brain, such as the
nature of objects.
Architectural – type and arrangement of neurons limit
what information the brain can process, such as
language.
Chronotopic – neural readiness for different areas is
on a timeline.
EVOLUTION AND COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT

Evolutionary theory’s influence on cognitive
development:

Evolutionary psychology provides explanations for
both the “how” and “why” questions about human
behavior.
COGNITIVE FLEXIBILITY

Stability: degree to which one’s intelligence maintains its
relative rank order compared to one’s peers

Plasticity: degree of flexibility of a cognitive ability
A DEVELOPMENTAL CONTEXTUAL MODEL
culture
Society
Community
School Network
teachers
parent
child
classmates
cognition
child
Social network
Time
Parent
peers
Child’s peers
Marriage network
Nonnuclear
family
siblings
Parent
spouse
Work network
Immediate
job associates
Indirect job
associates
E
t
c
DYNAMIC SYSTEMS APPROACH

Cognitive changes are emergent due to interaction
among characteristics of structure and the environment.

Change is nonlinear.

Systems continually self-organized, transitioning from
one stable state to another, known as phase transition.
DOMAIN-GENERAL VS. DOMAIN-SPECIFIC
ABILITIES

Both exist

Domain-general: cognition is influenced by one set of
factors

Domain-specific: different cognitive domains are
controlled by different brain functions or areas of the
brain
CHANGES IN COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT

Representation: Children and adults differ in the ways they
represent information.


Different techniques are particular to each stage of development.
Intentional Control: Children develop strategies to solve
problems.

Strategies are intentional, goal-directed mental operations designed to
solve a problem
STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT: CHARACTERISTICS

Stages are defined by qualitative differences: changes in
type, often subjectively perceived as different.

There is discontinuity from one stage to the next as
different behaviors appear at once.

Homogeneity of cognitive function is seen in stage
related functions being done in the same way.
EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY

Cognitive development is contextual

Cognition is shaped by domain-specific brain modules, and as
such, function varies by each module.

Because of domain-specificity, representational, architectural, and
chronotopic constraints on cognition, learning becomes more
facilitated.

Constraints allow the learner to filter and focus attention on what
is important to learn.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/patricia_kuhl_
the_linguistic_genius_of_babies.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCt1Wc8Kx4U&feat
ure=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9ioMR8C9GI

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