Cognition Development in Children

As defined in our text book, Cognition refers to the process or faculties by which knowledge is acquired and manipulated. Cognition is usually thought of as being mental, so, cognition is a reflection of a mind. Cognition is not directly observable. We cannot see or directly measure what underlines children’s performance on these and other tasks. We can understand what is going on in their heads by assessing certain aspects of their behavior. Cognition is never measured directly but is inferred from the behaviors we can observe.

It’s not the overt, countable behaviors that is important but the processes or skills that underline them. How does memory in remembering words and pictures reflect how information is stored in the minds of children of different ages? What do children know about the minds of others? “To what extent are young children’s less sophisticated cognitive skills a function of limits on their abilities to process information or limits on their knowledge about information relevant to the task? “(Children’s thinking, Bjorklund) These are important factors to understanding cognitive development.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

This project is three of the many cognition tasks used to measure a child’s development. There were a total of four children from the ages of forty-four months, to forty-eight months with the mean age of thirty-four months. This entire experiment shows that processing and knowledge cannot be understood independently of one another. “How a person of any age processes information is a function of the prior knowledge that a person possesses. Much like the relationship between structure and function, the relationship between processing and knowledge is bidirectional” (Children’s thinking, Bjorklund).

In this experiment we used an empty, familiar Band-Aid box and put a yellow rubber ducky. Before we start the other experimenter goes out of the room and out of site from the child. We asked each child what they thought was inside. Every child naturally said “Band-Aids”. We then opened the box and revealed the ducky not Band-Aids. We then re-asked what they originally thought was in the box (what they believed was in the box before being shown the contents). Next the experimenter who left the room is called back in. We then ask the child what he or she thinks the experimenter would guess what was in the box.

Three of the children guessed correctly while one child G2CO, the youngest, age forty-four months old, failed the false belief task. The first question assesses children’s memory for their initial belief also referred to as representational change. The second question assesses their ability to understand false belief. The false-belief task is commonly used to assess children’s theory of mind which is why this is a common task used by researchers. Most four year old children can solve this problem, stating that the experimenter who left the room would guess the child’s first guess, Band-Aids.

However, three year olds generally cannot guess correctly that the experimenter will guess there is a ducky in the box, not a Band-Aide. The correct answer would be Band-Aide’s but three year olds seem to forget there initial belief. It’s not that they have difficulty remembering their past images, perceptions, or pretences, it’s they have particular difficulty remembering their past beliefs. Perner (1991) proposed that three year old children lack the conceptual structures necessary to solve problems dealing with beliefs. They have a representational deficit and do not possess a true theory of mind.

As concluded in the class text book, young children will fail in situations where they must consider two different beliefs or representations for one target. In this experiment we play the shape game. We showed the child two white baskets with a picture of a red rabbit on one basket and a picture of a blue boat on another. After demonstrating what shape goes where the child tries. After the shape game we moved directly to the color game. Instead of matching shapes they are to match color. Again we demonstrate and then the child tried. There was only one child who failed this task. Subject B1Ak, forty-eight months old, got 0/5.

This task showed that young children cannot easily switch their perspectives from one focus to another. Young children have the underlying representational abilities, but they lack some specific cognitive skills. Even though mostly three year olds and sometimes four year olds can articulate the rules, they continue to sort the cards by the previous dimension. The three year old can state the rule, but have a tough time switching from one dimension to another. What stumps me is that this subject is the oldest. A researcher name Douglas Frye, believes that this is the deficit that young children have on false belief-tasks.

Another related interpretation is that young children have a lack of executive functions. “Executive functions refer to cognitive abilities involved in planning executing, and inhibiting actions” (Children’s Thinking, Bjorklund). Cognitive inhibitions refer to the ability to inhibit certain thoughts and behaviors at specific times. With theory of mind, many tasks require children to inhibit a dominate response to pass the task. For this experiment we invite the child to play a memory game. Showing each card, the child has to name it and we remind them to remember it.

After the child sees all nine pictures, we asked the child to name them back to us. Each child had different results. Two of the children did better on the second test, then the first. One did the same on both and one did better on the first and poorer on the second. There was one child, subject B2AP who had evidence of clustering on the second trail and recalled the most pictures out of all subjects on that test. Older children spontaneously sort words into groups during the study period, and at recall tend to remember the words from the same category together.

This is a form of organization in memory and “refers to the structure discovered or imposed on a set of items that is used to guide subsequent performance” (Children’s Thinking, Bjorklund). Developmentally, levels of recall and clustering usually increase with age, “with preschool children’s clustering often at chance levels” (Children’s Thinking, Bjorklund). Young children are capable of organizing information for recall, but they generally fail to do so spontaneously. In most condition, young children fail to generalize the strategy to new situations or new sets of material.

Children show regular and gradual changes in strategy use with time. Having a detailed, or elaborate knowledge base results in faster processing for domain-specific information, this in turn, results in more efficient processing and greater availability of mental resources. Recall typically improves with age, but there are no corresponding improvements in measure or organization. Individual items are more richly represented in the semantic memories of older children than in those of younger children, resulting in a greater ease of retrieval.

When highly associated words are used on memory tests, levels of recall and clustering are high for both young and old children. All together I feel the children did really well. To them it was two strangers asking them to play games. If we were to take away the distractions around the house from parents and the pressure of not really knowing us very well I feel they would do even better. It was interesting to see the correlation of these experiments to what we are learning in class. Out of the four subjects only one of the children have older siblings. This is where we saw the clustering. Siblings are always competing for resources, with older siblings typically having the advantage because of their greater size and mental abilities” (Children’s Thinking, Bjorklund). Younger children are motivated to develop whatever latent talents they have to help them in their social competition with their older siblings, which is to the younger child’s advantage. Three and four year children’s performance is related on false belief tasks and are related to family size. Children with larger families perform false-belief tasks better then do children from smaller families.

The type of interaction provided by siblings, facilitates developing a sophisticated theory of mind. As Jennifer Jenkins and Janet Astington say, having siblings can compensate for delayed language development in influencing performance on false-belief tasks. Ted Ruffman believe having older siblings stimulates pretend play, which helps younger children represent “counterfactual states of affairs” which is a necessary skill for solving false-belief tasks. As determined under task A and Task B they are false-belief tasks and if a child does well on task A they should be able to do task B.

However, for subject B1Ak why was he able to pass the false-belief in task A but not in task B? Well like I wrote before some researchers suggest that young children have the underlying representational abilities, but they lack some specific cognitive skills. Young children cannot switch their perspectives from one focus to another and that is why the subject did not do well on task B. When comparing task B to C I don’t think there is much correlation. One is based on false-belief (task B) and one is based on memory. They both use visuals but one is only viewed for the first part of the task (task C).

They are both achieved with cognitive abilities but they are different. One thing in common is if the child has a understanding of theory of mind, they are able to solve many different tasks. This leads back to having older siblings. The type of interaction provided by siblings facilitates developing a sophisticated theory of mind. For example, subject B2AP, has a large family and older siblings he did well in both Task B and C. There was evidence of clustering and he was able to recall the most pictures in the second part of task C.

No other subject showed evidence of clustering. I did find it interesting that all subjects recalled the horse picture and three out of the four subjects recalled the dog picture. Comparing task C to task A I think that to be able to pass task A, the subject must pass the false-belief task (task A), and in order to pass task A the child must have a strong knowledge base resulting in faster processing for domain specific information, which results in more efficient processing and greater availability of mental resources.

The amount of knowledge one possesses influences how new information is stored and integrated into one’s previous knowledge and the speed and efficiency with which information is processed (Children’s Thinking, Bjorklund). Cognition, then, acts in a domain-general mechanism. Individual items are more richly represented in the semantic memories of older children than in those of younger children, resulting in greater ease of retrieval. What is important to remember is that what and how much one knows influences how and how well one thinks.

With age, children acquire more knowledge and, as a result of these quantitative increases, process information differently. Young children’s event memory is based on scripts, a form of schematic organization with real-world events organized by their casual and temporal characteristics. Children’s early memories are for general routines and not for specific autobiographical experiences. Parents, care takers and older siblings teach children how to remember by interacting with them and providing the structure for putting their experiences into narratives. Without the above, the three tasks would be impossible.