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 middle childhood

A Change in Logical Thinking


A change in the logic of thinking
A Change in the middle childhoodLogic 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 middle childhoodLogic 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

Conservation middle childhood

  • 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 middle childhood

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 middle childhood

Information-Processing Bridges

Evolution of Strategies

Additional Bridging Processes

Possible causes
Possible Causes middle childhood

  • 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 middle childhood

  • 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 middle childhood

  • 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 middle childhood

  • 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 middle childhood

  • 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 middle childhoodand 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

Middle childhood biological and cognitive development

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 each

  • 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 each

  • 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 each 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 each 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