In the ambiguous case, children and an adult played with a box that had two levers, one controlled by the child and one by the adult. On the count of three, both the child and the experimenter pressed their levers, and two toys popped out of the box. The child and the experimenter simultaneously released the levers, and both toys disappeared into the box. The ambiguity lay in whether one or both of the levers caused the toys to emerge from the box.
After this interaction, a different toy was brought out, and children could play with either of the toys. Children who witnessed ambiguous evidence for the causal mechanism played with the familiar toy more than the novel toy, while children who had seen unambiguous evidence for the mechanism elected to play more with a novel toy. The causal ambiguity of the familiar toy motivated children to continue their exploration.
Schulz and Bonawitz , p. Babies also can use the statistical distribution of events to infer the reason for failed actions and then deploy strategies to solve the problem. Suppose babies cannot get a toy to work. Is the failure because the toy is broken or because they do not know how to use it properly? In one series of studies Gweon and Schulz, , month-old babies witnessed two adults pressing a button on a toy that. In one condition, one of the adults succeeded twice in getting the toy to play, while the other adult failed twice.
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In the other condition, each adult failed once and succeeded once. Babies were then handed a similar toy to play with that failed to produce the music when they pressed the button. Babies who earlier saw one adult succeed and the other fail turned to their mothers for help in getting the toy to work. In contrast, babies who saw each adult succeed and fail once reached for a different toy. Thus, depending on the prior information babies observed, they inferred that there was either some lack of ability on their part or some problem with the toy.
When they inferred that the problem was with their ability, they turned to their mother for help; when they inferred that the toy was broken, they reached for another one.
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In one study, for example, 9-month-old babies saw an adult either reach for an object a noncommunicative act or point to an object a communicative act. The entire display was then screened from view, and after a brief delay, the curtains were opened, and babies saw either the same object in a new location or a new object in the same location. The short delay imposed a memory requirement, and for babies this young, encoding both the location and the identity of the object taxes their memory. As predicted, babies appeared to encode different aspects of the event in the different conditions.
When they had previously witnessed the adult reaching for the object, they were surprised when the object was in a new location but showed no renewed interest when there was a different object in the old location. In contrast, when babies first saw an adult point to the object, they were surprised when a new object appeared in the old location but not when the old object had changed locations Yoon et al. Babies have the capacity to realize when someone is communicating something for their benefit and therefore to construe information differently than when they merely witness it.
The significance of eye contact and other communication cues also is evident in research on whether, how, and when young children learn from video and other forms of digital media. Experiments conducted with month-olds, for example, revealed that they can learn from a person on a video screen if that person is communicating with them through a webcam-like environment, but they showed no evidence of learning from a prerecorded video of that person.
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The webcam environment included social cues, such as back-and-forth conversation and other forms of social contact that are not possible in prerecorded video. Other studies found that toddlers learned verbs better during Skype video chats than during prerecorded video chats that did not allow for authentic eye contact or back-and-forth interaction Roseberry et al.
See also Chapter 6 for more on technology and learning. The benefits of communicative pedagogical contexts for the conceptual development of preschool children also have been investigated. But when those objects were doctored to be nonfunctional, the children in the nonpedagogical condition quickly abandoned their attempts to elicit the property and played with the objects in some other way.
Children who saw the same evidence but with direct communication for their benefit persisted in trying to elicit the property from other objects Butler and Markman, a,b.
Moreover the intentional but nonpedagogical condition versus the pedagogical condition produced strikingly different conceptions of the function Butler and Markman, Some objects were identical in appear-. Half of the objects of each color or shape had the unforeseen property, and half did not. Children were told they could play with the objects for a while and then should put them away in their appropriate boxes when done.
The goal was to see whether children would sort the objects by the salient perceptual property color or shape or by function. Children in the pedagogical condition viewed the function as definitive and classified the objects by systematically testing each to see whether it had the function, while children in the nonpedagogical condition sorted by the salient color or shape. Thus, identical evidence is construed differently when children believe it has been produced for their benefit.
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Understanding the power of language is important for people who interact with children. Simple labels can help children unify disparate-looking things into coherent categories; thus labeling is a powerful way to foster conceptual development. Labels also can reify categories or concepts in ways that may or may not be intended. Awareness of the benefits and pitfalls of the language used by adults is important for people who interact with children. The language used by adults affects cognitive growth and learning in children in many subtle ways.
Labeling is a powerful way to foster conceptual development. Simple labels can help children unify disparate things into coherent categories, but can also have the unintended consequence of reinforcing categories or concepts that are not desirable. Some kinds of categories—two round balls, for example—are fairly easy to form, such that even babies treat the objects as similar.
But many objects that adults view as members of the same category are perceptually dissimilar, and children would not, on their own, categorize them together. Some categories have very diverse members: consider a greyhound and a bichon frise as dogs, or a tie and a raincoat as clothing.
Atypical members of categories—thinking of a penguin as a bird, for example—also are difficult for children to categorize on their own. Hearing perceptually diverse objects called by the same label enables children to treat them as members of the same category, which in turn affects the kinds of inductive inferences children draw about them cf.
Gelman, Even very young children will base their inductive inferences on the category to which objects belong rather than their perceptual features when the objects are labeled. Providing a common label for perceptually disparate objects also is a way of transmitting cultural knowledge to children. This effect of labeling objects speaks to one of the ways in which ordinary interaction with babies enriches their cognitive development and early learning Graham et al. While categorization has many benefits for developing inductive reasoning, it can also ultimately be associated with inferences that exaggerate differences between categories and similarities within categories.
This may be linked to some undesirable consequences, such as stereotyping or prejudice based on these inferences Master et al. It is impossible for any individual to experience first-hand all of the exemplars of a category. The use of generics is thus an indispensable way of learning about the category as a whole. Generics are a powerful way of conveying general facts, properties, or information about a category, and those generalizations often can stand even in the face of counterexamples Gelman, Therefore, not only.
This stability has many advantages, but as with categorization, it also can be problematic—for example, generic statements about social categories can reify the categories and beliefs about them. When an individual encounters members of a social category that do not share the relevant trait or behavior, those people may then be seen as exceptions but the generalization will still stand.
Properties conveyed by generics also are construed as central or essential to the category Cimpian and Markman, Four- and 5-year-old children given the same information conveyed using generic versus nongeneric phrases interpret the information quite differently.source url
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Subtle differences in generic versus nongeneric language used to convey information to children can shape the kinds of generalizations they make, the strength of those generalizations, and the extent to which properties are considered central or defining of the category. Here, too, generics can sometimes play an unwanted role Cimpian and Markman, Dweck and colleagues have shown that children who believe an ability is inherent and fixed are more likely to give up when faced with failure and to lose motivation for and interest in a task, while children who view an ability as malleable are more likely to take on the challenge and work to improve their skill.
Many of the foundations of sophisticated forms of learning, including those important to academic success, are established in the earliest years of life. Development and early learning can be supported continuously as a child develops, and early knowledge and skills inform and influence future learning. Many of these concepts describe cognitive processes that are implicit. By contrast with the explicit knowledge that older children and adults can put into words, implicit knowledge is tacit or nonconscious understanding that cannot readily be consciously described see, e.
Examples of implicit knowledge in very young children include many of the early achievements discussed above, such as their implicit theories of living things and of the human mind and their nonconscious awareness of the statistical frequency of the associations among speech sounds in the language they are hearing. Not all early learning is implicit, of course. Very young children are taking significant strides in their explicit knowledge of language, the functioning of objects, and the characteristics of people and animals in the world around them.
Thus early learning occurs on two levels: the growth of knowledge that is visible and apparent, and the growth of implicit understanding that is sometimes more difficult to observe. This distinction between implicit and explicit learning can be confusing to early childhood practitioners and parents , who often do not observe or recognize evidence for the sophisticated implicit learning—or even the explicit learning—taking place in the young children in their care.
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Instead, toddlers and young children seem highly distractable, emotional, and not very capable of managing their impulses. All of these observations about young children are true, but at the same time, their astonishing growth in language skills, their very different. This point is especially important because the cognitive abilities of young children are so easily underestimated. In the past, for example, the prevalent belief that infants lack conceptual knowledge meant that parents and practitioners missed opportunities to explore with them cause and effect, number, or symbolic play.
In light of these observations, how do early educators contribute to the cognitive growth of children in their first 3 years? One way is by providing appropriate support for the learning that is occurring in these very young children see, e. Using an abundance of child-directed language during social interaction, playing counting games e. The implications for instructional practices and curricula for educators working with infants and toddlers are discussed further in Chapter 6.