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cognitive development in infancy


Cognitive Development in Infancy

  • This multimedia product and its contents are protected under copyright law. The following are prohibited by law:
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    • preparation of any derivative work, including the extraction, in whole or part, of any images;
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Piaget’s Views

Recall from Chapter Two

  • Assimilation
    • Process of fusing incoming information to existing schemes to make sense of experiences
  • Accommodation
    • Changing a scheme to incorporate new information
  • Sensorimotor Intelligence
    • Refinement of innate schemes by experiences of the senses and motor actions
piaget s views
Piaget’s Views
  • Primary circular reaction: simple repetitive actions organized around the infant’s own body
  • Secondary circular reaction: baby repeatedly exhibits behavior to produce a desired outcome
  • Means-end behavior: purposeful behavior to achieve a goal
  • Tertiary circular reaction: experiment with different behaviors to ascertain the outcomes



1. Basic Reflexes

Birth to 1 month

2. Primary Circular Reactions

1 to 4 months

3. Secondary Circular


4 to 8 months

4. Coordination of Secondary Schemes

8 to 12 months

5. Tertiary Circular Reactions

12 to 18 months

6. Transition to Symbolic


18 to 24 months

Piaget’s Sensorimotor Stage


Piaget’s Sensorimotor Stage

Object Permanence

  • The realization that objects still exist when hidden from sight
    • 2 months – rudimentary expectations shown by surprise when an object disappears
    • 6 – 8 months – looking for a missing object for a brief period of time
    • 8 – 12 months – reaching for or search for a toy that is completely hidden

Piaget’s Sensorimotor Stage


  • 2 months – can imitate actions they could see themselves make
  • 8 – 12 months – can imitate other people’s facial expressions
  • 1 year – imitation of any action that wasn’t in the child’s repertoire begins
  • 18 months – deferred imitation (a child’s imitation of some action at a later time) begins

Challenges to Piaget’s Views

  • Piaget underestimated cognitive capacity of infants
  • He may have wrongly equated infant’s lack of physical ability with lack of cognitive understanding
  • Object permanence studies incorporating computer technology suggest it occurs much earlier than Piaget predicted

Modern Studies of Object Permanence

  • Baillargeon
    • Babies as young as 4 months show clear signs of object permanence
  • Recent theories
    • Developing object permanence more a process of elaboration than of discovery
spelke s alternative approach
Spelke’s Alternative Approach
  • Babies have inborn assumptions about objects and their movement
  • Violation of expectations method
    • Researchers move an object the opposite way from that which the infant comes to expect

Learning, Categorizing, and Remembering

  • Learning
    • Permanent changes in behavior that result from experience
  • Classical conditioning
    • Learning of emotional responses as early as the first week of life
    • Stimulus-response connection
  • Operant conditioning
    • Both sucking responses and head-turning have been increased using reinforcement
  • Learning from models too

Learning, Categorizing, and Remembering

Schematic Learning

  • The organization of experiences into expectancies or “known” combinations (schemas)
  • Categories
    • By 7 months infants actively use categories to process information.
    • Cannot process levels of categories
      • Babies respond differently to animals versus furniture but not to dogs versus birds
    • Hierarchical or superordinate categories appear by age 2

Learning, Categorizing, and Remembering


  • Carolyn Rovee-Collier’s research
  • Babies as young as 3 months can remember specific objects and their own actions for as long as a week
  • Young infants more cognitively sophisticated than previously assumed

The Beginnings of Language

The Behaviorist View: B. F. Skinner

  • Begins with babbling, which parents reinforce
  • Respond to grammatical use of words with reinforcement
  • Withhold reinforcement for nongrammatical words
  • Correct grammar reinforced, becomes more frequent
  • BUT apparently NOT what happens—parents respond to all vocalizations

The Beginnings of Language

The Nativist View Noam Chomsky

  • Children make rule-governed grammatical errors
  • LAD – Language Acquisition Device
    • An innate language processor which contains the basic grammatical structure of all human language

The Beginnings of Language

The Interactionist View

  • Infants prepared to pay attention to language
  • Extract general principles of language
  • Language development part of broader process of cognitive development
  • Language is used to express only those meanings the child has already formulated
  • New words learned when they help communicate thoughts and ideas

Influences on Language Development

  • Infant Directed Speech
    • Speech in a higher pitch
    • Adults repeat often, introduce minor variations, use slightly more elongated sentences
    • Babies prefer Infant Directed Speech to adult speech
    • A baby more easily imitates a correct grammatical form “recast” from his own sentences by an adult
    • Children whose parents talk to them a lot develop richer vocabularies and more complex sentences

Questions to Ponder

  • Which language theory appears to be right to you? Why?
  • What are three effective strategies parents may use to help stimulate language development in their children?

Early Milestones of Language Development

  • Birth – 1 month
    • Crying predominant sound
  • 1 – 2 months
    • Laughing and cooing sounds (aaaaa)
  • 6 – 7 months
    • Babbling; repetitive vowel–consonant combinations
  • 9-10 months
    • Hand gesture-vocalization combinations

Word Recognition

Receptive language

  • The ability to understand words
  • 8 months — begin to store words in memory
  • 9 – 10 months — can understand 20 – 30 words
  • 13 months — 100 words

The First Words

Expressive language

  • The ability to produce words
  • 12-13 months — babies begin to say first words
  • Words learned slowly in context with specific situations and cues

The First Words

  • Holophrases
    • Combining a single word with gestures to make a complete thought
    • Used between 12 and 18 months
  • Naming Explosion
    • Used between 16 and 24 months
    • 16 months old – 50 words in vocabulary
    • 24 months old – 320 words
    • Vocabulary grows in spurts

The First Sentences

  • Sentences appear at 18 – 24 months
  • Child has a threshold vocabulary of 100-200 words
  • Sentences short, generally 2 or 3 words, and simple
    • Sometimes called “telegraphic speech.”
  • Create sentences following rules

Individual Differences in Language Development

  • Differences in rate of language development
    • A wide range of normal variations exists in sentence structures
    • Most children catch up
    • Those who don’t catch up have poor receptive language

Individual Differences in Language Development

Differences in Style

  • Expressive style
    • Early vocabulary linked to social relationships rather than objects
  • Referential style
    • Early vocabulary made up of names of things or people
    • Often advanced in understanding adult language

Language Development Across Cultures

  • Cooing, babbling, holophrases, and telegraphic speech typically found in all languages
  • Use of specific word order in early sentences is not the same
  • Particular inflections are learned in highly varying and specific order

Measuring Intelligence in Infancy

  • Bailey Scales of Infant Development
    • Measure sensory and motor skills
    • Help identify children with serious developmental delays
    • Not as useful predicting later intelligence
  • Measures of habituation MIGHT relate to later measures of intelligence