middle childhood biological and cognitive development
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Middle Childhood: Biological and Cognitive Development. Aylin Küntay PSYC 206. Motor Development.

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motor development
Motor Development
  • At age of 5, boys tend to be more advanced in motor skills that require power and force (e.g., jumping, running, throwing or kicking a ball), while girls tend to excel in fine motor skills (e.g., drawing and writing) or in gross motor skills that combine balance and foot movement (e.g., skipping and gymnastics)
    • Boys have slightly greater muscle mass and are bigger than girls (until age 10½ when girls spurt ahead in height for a few years)
  • However, cultural conceptions of the activities appropriate to boys and girls also play an important role in shaping these differences
brain development
Brain Development
  • Increased myelination, particularly in frontal cortex
  • Increased number of synapses
  • Increased output of neurotransmitters
  • EEG patterns change dramatically…
    • Until age 5, EEGs of awake children are dominated by theta activity (characteristic of adult sleep states), rather than alpha activity (characteristic of engaged attention)
    • Theta and alpha patterns are equalized in ages 5-7, and thereafter alpha activity dominates
  • EEG coherence (synchronization of electrical activity in different areas of brain) increases significantly…
    • Particularly between frontal lobes and other parts of the brain (resulting in controlled attention, planning, self-reflection…)
cognitive developments

Cognitive Developments

A Change in Logical Thinking


a change in the logic of thinking
A Change in the Logic of Thinking
  • In middle childhood children’s thinking becomes distinctly“two-sided”
    • Can think about objects from more than one perspective
    • Can hold one characteristic of a situation in mind while comparing it with another
a change in the logic of thinking1
A Change in the Logic of Thinking
  • Piaget: Concrete Operations
    • “Concrete” because these mental actions (i.e., operations) are directed toward concrete objects in everyday activities
    • Distinguished from preoperations by their double-sidedness
    • Results in more flexible and organized thinking (e.g., can think about alternatives and can reverse their thinking)
    • Allows children to think through their actions, and to mentally combine, separate, order, and transform objects and actions
  • Understanding that some properties of an object remain the same even when its appearance is altered (e.g., beaker test…, card test…)
    • Begin to understand at age 5 or 6; typically mastered by age 8
  • Mental operations
    • Identity – “They were equal to start with and nothing was added, so they’re 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”
piaget conservation of number
Piaget: Conservation of Number

Children below the age of 6 or 7 rarely display conservation of number, and will say that the elongated row has more.

An understanding of logical necessity—that “it has to be that way”—is Piaget’s key criterion of a stagelike change in thinking.

causes of developmental changes in cognition

Causes of Developmental Changes in Cognition

Information-Processing Bridges

Evolution of Strategies

Additional Bridging Processes

possible causes
Possible Causes
  • Piaget believed that all cognitive growth is driven by assimilation (i.e., incorporate new experiences into existing schemas) and accommodation (i.e., modify existing schemas in the light of new experiences)
  • Other, more recent, explanations
    • Memory capacity
    • Accumulating knowledge
    • Development of cognitive strategies
influence of memory on cognition
Influence of Memory on Cognition
  • Factor 1: Increased speed and capacity of memory processing
    • Memory span: 5-year-olds remember 4 digits, 10-year-olds remember 6, adults remember 7
    • Retrieval speed: 11-year-olds retrieved information from long-term memory about 6 times faster than 5-year-olds
    • Speed and capacity are interrelated…
influence of memory on cognition1
Influence of Memory on Cognition
  • Factor 2: Expanded knowledge base
    • Retention improves because children have more prior information to which to relate new information
    • Younger subjects who have a rich knowledge base in a given area remember more new information related to that area than older subjects whose knowledge base is not as rich
influence of memory on cognition2
Influence of Memory on Cognition
  • Factor 3: Acquisition of improved memory strategies (all are two-sided because they must simultaneously think about a goal and the way to achieve it)
    • Rehearsal – Repeating to oneself the material one is trying to memorize
    • Memory Organization – Group in meaningful clusters (e.g., by sound, by situational associations “farm things”, by conceptual categories “foods”), tested by free recall (any order)
    • Elaboration – Make up connections between 2 or more things to be remembered (“tomato” and “street”, imagine tomato squashed in the street), tested by paired words
influence of memory on cognition3
Influence of Memory on Cognition
  • Factor 4: Emergence of metamemory(i.e., the ability to think about one’s own memory processes)
    • 8-year-olds have a better understanding of the limitations of their own memories than most 5-year-olds
    • Consequently they knew enough to study the materials and to test themselves on their ability to remember
combining memory and logical stages
Combining Memory and Logical Stages
  • It is an increase in the capacity of working memory that allows children to think about two or more aspects of a problem at one time
    • Hence, a close relationship between problem-solving ability and the capacity of working memory

Not until middle childhood did children pay attention to each of the four houses in a systematic way to discover the subtle differences between them.

increased linguistic skills
Increased Linguistic Skills
  • Vocabulary
    • 6-year-olds understand about 10,000 words
    • 2 years later that has doubled
    • By 10 or 11, have a vocabulary of approximately 40,000 words
  • Conversation: Older children are better at making sure they and their partners understand each other and have a greater ability to maintain coherence in a conversation over longer periods of time
    • Use linguistic makers: “Getting back to…” “As I was saying”
    • Provide ongoing feedback by nodding or saying “Uh hum”
increased classification skills
Increased Classification Skills
  • Piaget: Set of brown beads and white beads “Are there more brown beads or more beads?”
    • Children 4-6 cannot attend to the subclass and the superordinate class at the same time; instead they compare one subclass with another subclass
    • In middle childhood gain ability to understand the hierarchical structure of categories and can categorize objects according to multiple criteria
    • Begin to collect stamps, baseball cards, etc.
is conservation acquisition universal
Is conservation acquisition universal?

Children in non-industrial societies lag a year or more behind Piaget’s norms, and in some cases never acquire it, even as adults

is conservation acquisition universal1
Is conservation acquisition universal?
  • Performance improves, however, with training, and when interviewed in their native language and with content with which they are more familiar
  • Thus, conservation is a universal cognitive achievement of middle childhood, as Piaget assumed it was, when these conditions are taken into account