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Part II. Chapter Six. The First Two Years: Cognitive Development. Sensorimotor Intelligence Information Processing Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?. The First Two Years: Cognitive Development. Infant cognition cognition = “thinking”

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Part II

Chapter Six

The First Two Years: Cognitive Development

Sensorimotor Intelligence

Information Processing

Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?

Prepared by Madeleine Lacefield Tattoon, M.A.


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The First Two Years: Cognitive Development

  • Infant cognition

    • cognition = “thinking”

      • “thinking” in a very broad sense includes…

        • language

        • learning

        • memory

        • intelligence


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The First Two Years: Cognitive Development

  • Infants organize by the end of the first year…

    • sensations and perceptions

    • sequence and direction

    • the familiar and the strange

    • objects and people

    • events and experiences

    • permanence and transiency

    • cause and effect


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Sensorimotor Intelligence

  • Piaget’s first stage

    • infants learn through senses and motor actions


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Piaget and Research Methods

  • Sensorimotor intelligence actually occurs earlier for most infants than Piaget predicted.

  • Habituation, the process of getting used to a stimulus after repeated exposure.

  • If a new object appears and the infant reacts, it is assumed they recognize the object as something different.


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Information Processing Theory

  • “a perspective that compares human thinking processes, by analogy, to computer analysis of data, including sensory input, connections, stored memories, and output”


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Information Processing Theory

  • Affordance

    • “…an opportunity for perception and interaction that is offered by a person, place, or object in the environment”

  • Perceptionis the mental processing of information that arrives at the brain from the sensory organs


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Information Processing Theory

  • Affordance

    • two people can have discrepant perceptions of the same situation, not only interpreting it differently but actually observing it differently

    • depending on:

      • past experiences

      • current developmental level

      • sensory awareness of opportunities

      • immediate needs and motivation


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Information Processing Theory

  • Information processing improves over the first year as infants become quicker to remember

  • Experiences affect which affordances are perceived…


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Information Processing Theory

  • Sudden Drops

    • …the visual cliff, an apparatus to measure depth perception

    • infants become interested in “crossing” the cliff about 8 months (having had experience falling)

    • the cliff “affords” danger for older infants


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Information Processing Theory

  • Movement and People

    • dynamic perception

      • primed to focus on movement and change

    • a people preference

      • a universal principle of infant perception, an innate attraction to other humans, which is evident in visual, auditory, tactile, and other preferences


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Information Processing Theory

  • Memory

    • Even very young infants can remember under the following circumstances:

      • experimental conditions are similar to “real life”

      • motivation is high

      • special measures are taken to aid memory retrieval


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Information Processing Theory

  • A Little Older, a Little More Memory

    • after about 6 months infants can retain information for longer periods of time… with less training or reminding

    • by the middle of the 2nd year toddlers can remember and reenact more complex sequences


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Information Processing Theory

  • Memory is not one “thing”

    • brain-imaging techniques reveal many distinct brain regions devoted to particular aspects of memory

      • implicit memory is memory for routines and memories that remain hidden until particular stimulus bring them to mind

      • explicit memory is memory that can be recalled on demand


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Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?

  • “The acquisition of language,… its idiomatic phases, grammar rules, and exceptions, is the most impressive intellectual achievement of the young child.”


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Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?

  • The Universal Sequence

    • Around the world children follow the same sequence of early language development


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Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?

  • Listening and Responding

    • infants begin learning language before birth…

    • infants prefer speech over other sounds

  • child-directed speech

    • the high-pitched, simplified, and repetitive way adults speak to infants


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Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?

  • Babbling

    • repeating certain syllables (e.g., da-da-da).

      • all babies babble, even deaf babies (although later and less frequently).

      • babbling is a way to communicate.


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Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?

  • First Words

    • usually around 1 year the average baby speaks, or signs a few words

    • by 13 months spoken language increases very gradually

    • 6 to 15 month-olds learn meaning rapidly and comprehend about 10 times as many words as they speak


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Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?

  • The Naming Explosion

    • a sudden increase in an infant’s vocabulary, especially in the number of nouns begins at about 18 months

    • vocabulary reaches about 50 expressed words at a rate of 50 to 100 per month, 21 month-olds saying twice as many as 18 month-olds


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Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?

  • Cultural Differences

    • the ratio of nouns to verbs and adjectives show cultural influences.

    • one explanation is the language itself (i.e. English, Chinese differ)

    • another explanation is social context (toys and objects)

    • every language has some concepts encoded in adult speech


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Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?

  • Sentences

    • “The first words soon take on nuances of tone, loudness, and cadence that are precursors of the first grammar, because a single word can convey many messages by the way it is spoken.”


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Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?

  • Sentences

    “Dada!” “Dada?” and “Dada.”

  • each is a holophrase, a single word that expresses a complete, meaningful thought.

  • intonations varying in tone and pitch is extensive in babbling and again in holophrases at about 18 months


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Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?

  • Theories of Language Learning

    • 2 year olds worldwide use language well

    • bilingual children keep two languages separate and speak whatever language a listener understands


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Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?

  • Theories of Language Learning

    • There are 3 theories of how infants learn language:

      • they are taught (view of B. F. Skinner)

      • they teach themselves (view of Noam Chomsky)

      • social impulses foster learning


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Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?

  • Theory One: Infants Need to Be Taught

    • 50 years ago the dominant learning theory in North America was behaviorism

    • B. F. Skinner (1957) noticed that spontaneous babbling is usually reinforced… a grinning mother appears, repeating, praising, giving attention to the infant

    • Parents are expert teachers, other caregivers help

    • Frequent repetitions instructive when linked to daily life


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Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?

  • Theory Two: Infants Teach Themselves

    • a contrary theory is that language learning is innate--adults need not teach it

    • Norm Chomsky (1968,1980) felt that language is too complex to be mastered merely through step-by-step conditioning


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Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?

  • Theory Two: Infants Teach Themselves

    • universal grammar--all young children master basic language at about the same age

    • Language Acquisition Device (LAD)

      • a hypothesized mental structure that enables humans to learn language, including the basic aspects of grammar, vocabulary and intonation


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Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?

  • Theory Three: Social Impulses Foster Infant Language

    • called social-pragmatic perceives the crucial starting point to be neither vocabulary reinforcement (behaviorism) nor innate connection (epigenetic), but rather the social reason for language; communication

    • Infants communicate in every way they can because humans are social beings and depend on one another for survival and joy


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Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?


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Language: What Develops in the First Two Years?

  • A Hybrid Theory

    • the integration of all three perspectives…

    • their model an emergentist coalition… combing valid aspects of several theories about the emergence of language during infancy


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