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Psychology of Human Growth and Development
cognitive development part 2
cognitive development part 2
Psychosocial development
Development of emotions
Language development
Cognitive development part 1
Perceptual development part 2
Development of attachment
Nature versus nature
Introduction to developmental theories
Prenatal development and chromosomal abnormalities
Prenatal development and teratogens
Brain development
Motor development
Physical growth
Perceptual development

vygotsky’s sociocultural theory



        Child is born with a set of innate abilities


o       E.g.; attention


o       Perception


o       memory    


        believed that only input from the child’s social and cultural world in the form of interactions with more expert adults and peers could model these basic abilities into more complex higher-order cognitive functions


        Proposes that children’s cognitive development is a function of their interaction with more skilled and more sophisticated partners.


o       E.g.: parents, teachers, older children etc




o       Like Piaget believed that development occurred in stages


o       Change occurs in abrupt shifts rather in a steady quantitative increments.




o       Vygotsky was concerned with the processes involved in development


o       Not interested simply in the end points of development.




o       Shifts in development were accounted for by the types of mediators


o       Psychological tools and signs like:




         mnemonic devices,

         algebraic symbols,




o       Children rely upon to understand their world


o       Permit the child to function more effectively in:


         Solving problems


         Understanding their cognitive world


        Elementary and higher mental functions


o       Elementary mental functions


         Functions with which the child is endowed by nature


        E.g.: attention






         Transformed by the child’s interaction with society and culture into higher mental functions.


o       Higher mental functions


         An important transition in children’s cognitive development occurs between elementary and higher mental functions


         E.g.: voluntary attention




         abstract thinking


         Functions that rely on the use of increasingly sophisticated mediators that come through the child’s interaction with the environment.


         E.g.: language


         Other symbol systems


         Social origins of higher mental functions


        Child’s society provides them with a writing system and other mediators that enable him to develop better cognitive skills.


        Zone of proximal development


o       Vygotsky more interested in the child’s potential for intellectual growth than with the children’s intellectual abilities at particular points in time.


o       Used Zone of proximal development to:


         Understand how intellectual development occurs


         Assess the potential for intellectual growth


o       Represents


         an alternative approach to the assessment of intelligence


        i.e. under optimal conditions


         A way of understanding how children’s intellectual development occurs.


o       with the guidance or collaboration of a more skilled adult or peer.


o       The difference between the


         developmental level a child has reached


         and the level she is potentially capable of reaching


o       scaffolding


         An instructional process in which the teacher continually adjusts the amount and type of support offered as the child continues to develop more sophisticated skills.


        The role of culture


o       Emphasizes  the significance of culture and society in accounts of development.


o       2 principles of cultural influence


         1) Cultures vary widely in the kinds of institutions and settings they offer to children to facilitate children’s development.

         2) In any attempt to assess children’s cognitive development we must consider cultural contexts.


        The role of language


o       Believed that the acquisition  and use of language is a primary component of children’s developing intellectual abilities.


o       Thought and speech and independent in early life but join together in second year of life when child begins to use words to label objects.


o       Within a year speech assumes two forms


         Social or communicative speech


         Egocentric speech / private speech


         Form of self-directed dialog by which the child instructs herself in solving problems and formulating plans.


        Becomes a tool for


-                         Intellectual growth


-                         More effective and skilled learner


        As the child matures becomes internalized as inner speech (7-10 years)


        Inner speech


-                         Internalized ego-centric speech


-                         Continues to direct and regulate intellectual functioning.


-                         Use this speech when encountering a difficult cognitive task = improved performance


         According to Vygotsky Language serves as :


        1) an aid for regulating cognitive plans


        2) an aid for regulating cognitive strategies



        3) tool for communicating


         Culture one is born into will affect the use of language.


critique of vygotsky’s sociocultural theory





o       Overcomes some of the limitations of Piaget’s almost exclusive focus on cognitive development.


o       Made us more aware of the importance of immediate social contexts of learning and cognition.


o       Increased our appreciation of the profound importance of cultural variation in development


o       New methods to assess children’s cognitive potential


o       New methods of teaching math’s and writing


o       Inspired a great deal of research activity.





o       Not yet received the full scrutiny that other cognitive theories have received.


o       Theory is not very developmental


         Doesn’t describe developmental changes across time in various contexts.


o       Doesn’t specify the processes that govern development

o       Doesn’t specify if processes are the same at all ages.


o       Contexts of children are determined by their parents based on child’s developmental level but Vygotsky doesn’t comment on this.


o       Does not tell us how changes in physical, motor, cognitive, perceptual or social development determine the kinds of contexts that society through parents make available to the child.


o       Described more as a blueprint rather than a fully developed theory.


         Provides only a general approach


         Few standard tasks



information processing theory



        Information processing approach


o       A perspective on cognition and cognitive development


o       Human mind is likened to a computer – or metaphor of human thought.


         Highlights the roles of information input, storage and retrieval.


o       Human mind processes information from the environment through:


         The application of logical rules and strategies


         Mind is limited in amount and nature of information it can process


o       Children become better thinkers:


         Changes in their brains and sensory systems


         Rules and strategies


o       Focuses on the specific processes and strategies involved in developmental change rather than on the characteristics of any stage of thought.


o       Main beliefs


1.      Thinking is information processing


         Perceives, encodes, represents and stores information from the environment then retrieves it that is thinking.


         Responding to constraints or limitations on memory processes.


2.      proper focus of study is the role of change mechanisms in development


         Four critical mechanisms work together to bring about change in children’s cognitive skills.




        Strategy construction






3.      development is driven by self-modification


         i.e. children play an active role in their own development


         through self-modification child uses knowledge and strategies she has acquired from earlier problem solutions to modify her responses to a new situation /problem.


4.      investigators must perform careful task analysis of the problem situation they present to children


        the child’s level of development and the nature of the task itself constrains the child’s performance.


        Two primary characteristics of thinking according to the information-processing system



1.      Thinking is highly flexible


2.      Constraints limit flexibility


a.       Can attend to only limited info at any one time.


b.      Limited by how rapidly we can process information


        Structural characteristics of the cognitive system


o       Structure refers to:


         Means of organizing important concepts


o       Store model of the human information processing system(Atkinson and Shiffrin,1968)


        Information is depicted as moving through a series of processing units


-                         Sensory register

-                         Short term memory

-                         Long term memory


        Information may be stored either


-                         Fleetingly


-                         permanently


         Sensory register


        The mental processing unit that receives information from the environment and stores it fleetingly.


        Storage capacity of sensory register appears to be constant across development


o       Short term memory


        The work-space of the mind


        The mental processing unit in which information may be stored temporarily.


        Limited in the number of meaningful chunks of information on which it can operate at any one time.


        A decision must be made to:


-                          discard the information or


-                         to transfer it to permanent storage in long term memory.


o       Long term memory


        The minds encyclopedia


-                         Stores memories about objects, events, situations, problems, rules and problem solving techniques as a well as more general knowledge about the world.


        Mental processing unity


        Information may be sorted permanently


        Ability to remember a specific event depends on how we stored that information.


        From which it may be later retrieved.


o       Level of processing model


        Alternative explanation for why we remember or do not remember things.


        Proposes that the intensity of processing applied to information determines how long it will be stored.


        1) shallow processing


        2) deep processing


        Information-handling processes


o       main purpose is to decrease the load on the child’s information processing system by increasing the efficiency of each process.


o       With age children develop increasingly efficient processes for overcoming their cognitive limitations.


                        1) Encoding and mental representations


        Encoding: The transformation of information from the environment into a lasting representation


        mental representations


-                         information stored in some form in the cognitive system after the person has encountered it in the environment


-                         verbal


-                         pictorial


         2) strategies


        most important processes


        conscious cognitive or behavioral activities that are used to enhance mental performance


        applied to all levels of the information processing system


-                         strategies for optimal storage / retrieval


         3) automatization


        reduce the load on the information process of transforming conscious controlled behaviors into unconscious and automatic ones.


         4) Generalization


        The application of a strategy learned while solving a problem in one situation to a similar problem in a new situation


        the role of executive control processes


o       Through the executive process


         Child directs her intake of information (perception and attention)


         Choose which problem to work on


         Decide how much effort to make towards its solution


         Select the strategies to apply in this effort


         Avoid distractions and interruptions that hamper her efforts.


         Evaluate the quality of her solution



o       reflect the child’s role in selecting problems and strategies and monitoring the success of the problem solving.


o       Between 3 and 12 years child’s executive process shows great improvement.



how adolescents think: what characterizes adolescent thought?


v     skills that children have but that adolescents do more often and with greater ease:


v     Thinking abstractly


        Children think of things in terns of their physical properties


o       E.g.: comparison of two animals: cow and sheep they would compare that they have four legs, both are large etc.


        Hallmarks of adolescent thought is ability to think in the abstract


        Adolescents can think of things in terms of their membership to classes


o       E.g.: comparison of two animals: cow and sheep they would say that both are animals


        Can think of ways to classify those classes


o       E.g.: comparison of two animals: cow and sheep they would say that animals can be either aquatic or terrestrial.


        Problems with abstract thinking during adolescence


o       Imaginary audience (Elkind, 1967, 1985)


         Ability to think in the abstract underlies a new form of egocentrisism in early adolescence.


         Loose perspective about what concerns them and what concerns others.


        Think that others are also thinking about their concerns.


        Feel every eye is one them


        Feel every thought is about them


         Same feeling of specialness as if they are a movie star


         May explain adolescents


        Exaggerated feelings of self-consciousness


        Intense need for privacy.



o       Personal fable


         Derives from the imaginary audience


         Belief that we are different and special and what happens to others won’t happen to us.


         Consequences for adolescents


        Confusion over what they have in common with others and what is genuinely unique to themselves –


-                         So feel that no one else can understand their feelings because they are the only ones to have felt this way.


        Mistaken assumption that everyone shares their concerns.


-                         With this belief adolescents are not dissuaded by reasoning


-                         Better to agree with them



         Dangerous consequences for adolescents


        Self-destructive behaviour


-                         Belief that what they see happening to others won’t happen to them.


-                         Because they are unique they are invulnerable to the events that touch other’s lives.


v     Thinking hypothetically


        This refers to being able to imagine what is possible instead of only thinking about what is real.


        Can turn something around in their mind and come up with possible variations it mind take.


        Then they test each possibility to one that applies to the situation.


        Children focus on the actual perceptible elements of a situation and rarely speculate about the possibilities they can’t generate without doing something.


        Problems with thinking hypothetically


o       Pseudostupidity (Elkind, 1978)


         Fail to see the obvious because:


         They have made a problem more complicated than it is.


        Turning a problem in one’s mind and consider all possible perspectives makes things more complicated than they actually are.


         Read complex motives into situations where none exit


        Simple requests are viewed with skepticism e.g.: please pass the paper may be viewed as an attempt to control.


v     Thinking logically


        Able to test different ideas against each other and they become aware of the logical relations that exist among ideas.


        Can use logical consistency to determine whether a statement is true or false.


        Due to being able to think in the abstract


v     Individual differences among adolescents


        Thinking like all aspects of development is highly individual


        Differences exist among early adolescents in


o       The rate they acquire new reasoning abilities.


         Thinking improves with age throughout adolescence.