Cognitive Development in Early
Chapter 8
Cognitive Development based on Multiple
• Parallels the growth of the brain
– Increased levels of myelinization
– Continued pruning
– Elaboration based on experience
• Enhanced by the broader range of experience
– Expanding peer networks
– Greater diversity in interactions with adults
– The child’s own increased mobility
Three Theoretical Perspectives
• Piaget
• Vygotsky
• Information Processing
Piaget’s Perspectives
• Transition from Sensorimotor into Preoperational
– Capable of using symbolic thought to perform
mental tasks
– According to Piaget’s work, lacks the ability to
operate on those mental tasks
– Mental operations may not be available for
reflective consideration
Piaget’s Perspectives
– Progression of mental capabilities
• Use of language to represent symbols
– Recognizes when stories are told out of order
– Explanations are more complex
• Use of art to represent symbols
– Drawings tend to be more realistic as the child
progresses across the early childhood years
• Use of play to model roles and objects
– Can use one object to represent other objects
Piaget’s Perspectives: Preoperational
• Intuitive thought
– Based on personal experiences
– Logic based on unanalyzed personal experiences
(e.g. flag theory of wind and air conditioner
theory of summer)
Piaget’s Perspectives
• Egocentrism
– Failure to take others’ perspectives
– Sees others as having one’s own perspective
• Animistic thought
– Attributes animate qualities to inanimate objects
• Artificialism
– Attributes natural phenomena (sunsets, tides) to
direct human action
Piaget’s Perspectives
• Conservation
– Ability to recognize the constancy of invariants
(e.g. number, mass) in spite of transformations of
variable attributes
Discontinuous fluids
Continuous fluids
Piaget’s Perspectives
• Centration
• Tendency to isolate one attribute as a focus of attention
and ignore other relevant aspects (e.g. height and
diameter of a cylinder in the liquid conservation task)
• Reversibility
• Failure to mentally reverse the operations that led to
the change in attribute or end point.
• Static endpoints
• Tendency to focus on beginning and end states
regardless of the nature of the transformation
Vygotsky’s Perspective
• Theoretical orientation reflected a Marxist
dialectical view
• Social speech—interaction with others—
precedes private speech monologue by the
• Private speech precedes the internalization of
the concept to a mental representation
Vygotsky’s Perspective
• Development (for Vygotsky)
– occurred in a social or intermental plane first and
then on an internal or intramental plane
– required the presence of a more competent other
– required the more competent other to mediate
the process of learning and development
Vygotsky’s Perspective
• Concepts for Application:
– Zone of Proximal Development: more competent other
assists the child in moving from what the child can do
independently to that which the child can do only with
– Scaffolding: the process of supporting the child across the
zone of proximal development
– Impacts on educational practices:
• Teacher as a coach or facilitator
• Emphasis on cooperative learning with mixed ability
Information Processing Theory
• Encoding—initial input of information from
environment (sense organs; perception;
• Transformation—processes operating on that
information (strategies—depth of processing)
• Storage—retention of the information
(network models—schema structures)
Information Processing Theory
• Retrieval—recall or recognition of the
information from memory (strategies—search
of memory)
• Executive function—management,
monitoring, and control of cognitive domain
(metacognition; cognitive monitoring;
selection and use of strategies;
Developmental Considerations
• Capacity increases—amount of information
one can process
– Maturation of the CNS (central nervous system)
– Increased practice at particular tasks (e.g. naming,
answering questions)
– Rehearsal strategies (e.g. rote vs. meaningful)
Developmental Considerations
• Efficiency increases—amount and /or
complexity of processing by unit time
– Maturation of the CNS
– Acquisition of more efficient strategies
– Transition from controlled to automatic processing
Developmental Considerations
• Controlled Processes
– Conscious (child is aware of the steps)
– Each step is monitored (child knows outcomes)
– Requires additional processing resources (limited
capability for parallel tasks—multitasking)
– Examples:
• Early reading behavior
• Early mathematics computation
• Learning to drive a manual transmission
Developmental Considerations
• Automatic Processes
– Steps largely outside of awareness (Child is not
aware of discrete processes)
– Overall progress is monitored (outcomes of each
step likely not monitored but overall task success
is monitored)
– Requires fewer conscious processing resources
(multi-tasking is possible)
– Examples:
• Reading familiar texts
• Simple arithmetic computations
• Driving a manual transmission car after practice
Developmental Considerations
• Transition from automatic to controlled
processes occurs through
– Practice
– Acquisition of knowledge base
– Acquisition of more efficient strategies
Developmental Considerations
• Controlled Attention—ability to sustain focus
of mental resources
– Early on, young children typically require an adult
or more competent individual to help sustain
attention (ala Vygotsky)
– As CNS matures and more effective strategies are
acquired, child is able to manage own focus
(pruning, mylination, elaboration)
Developmental Considerations
• Metacognition
Executive function
Monitors ongoing mental processing
Controls strategic thinking
Can manage attention
Becomes able to assess performance on relatively
simple mental tasks
• Tends to develop rapidly across early childhood
• Tend to overestimate their knowledge—unclear
whether the overestimation is a true overestimation or
a desire to please an adult questioner
Developmental Considerations
• Theory of Mind (ToM)—Attributing mental states to
oneself and other
– Appearance—reality distinction (Maynard the cat who
wore a dog mask)
• Younger children were sure Maynard became a dog
• Older children did not succumb to the prank
– Recognizing the difference between one’s own feelings
and others’ is key to understanding mental states differ
– Maturation, experience with language, opportunities to
communicate specifically but one’s mental states seem to
be linked to development of ToM.
Language Development across Early
• Vocabulary Development occurs through:
– Exposure and reinforcement
– Repetition
– Child’s own analysis and construction of rules and
Language Development across Early Childhood
• Syntactic Development
– Syntactic structure learned through exposure &
– Telegraphic speech is an early syntactic form
• Noun (agent) verb (predicate); object implied
• Verb (predicate) noun (object); agent implied
• Noun (agent) noun (object); predicate implied
Language Development across Early Childhood
• Syntactic Development
– Rules can be overregularized
• Child recognizes a rule should be applied
• Application of a rule is syntactically appropriate but
incorrect (e.g. runrunned instead of ran)
• Indicates the child is constructing rules and structures
– Errors typically reflect syntactic rather than
semantic errors (errors in structure, not meaning)
Language Development across Early Childhood
• Pragmatic Development—rules of usage
– What cognitive resource or capability might be
• Perspective taking
• Recognizing non-verbal cues and emotional expression
– Domains of Pragmatic Development
• Turn taking
• Context dependent vs. context independent language
• Answer obvious questions (Do you have to make that
much noise?)
• Deference to authority
Language Development across Early Childhood
• Bilingual Children
– Three models
• Simultaneous
– Both languages learned simultaneously
– Most effective if each parent consistently uses one language
– Tend to be more fluent in both
• Additive
– One language is learned first
– Second language is learned following some fluency in first
– Most common in the USA culture
Language Development across Early Childhood
• Bilingual Children
– Three models
• Subtractive
– First language is learned to some fluency
– Second language is learned as a preferential
language or as a replacement for the first language
– Cultural norms and bilingualism
• Cultures that value bi or multilingualism tend to have either
simultaneous or additive bilingualism
• Cultures that devalue one of the two languages tend to have
subtractive bilingualism
• True bilingualism (simultaneous or additive) tends to be related to
more astute language users
Early Childhood Education
Early Childhood Education
Child Care
Nature of Program
Structured Curriculum
Play and Free Activities
Entry Criteria
Readiness Assessment
Open Access
Placement w/in Program
Placement Tests
Some Age Leveling
Movement across levels
Advancement based on
Social Skills
Early Childhood Education: National Programs
• Head Start/ Abecedarian/High-Scope
– Ages of service range from birth—five years
depending on the program
– Typically comprehensive—health, parental
involvement, educational
– Typically includes home visits for parental
Early Childhood Education
• Factors impacting success rate
– Population served
– Teacher training (VPK vs. Certified Teachers)
– Staff turnover
– Comprehensive nature of the program
– Staff development
– Parent training
– Follow-up beyond exit from program (Project
Follow Through)
Early Childhood Education
• Kindergarten Readiness
– DAIL-3
• Motor
– Gross Motor—jumping, catching;
– Fine Motor—block building, copying’
• Language
– Answering personal questions (name, age, sex)
– Articulation (for referral to speech assessment)
• Concepts
– Naming body parts
– Counting
– Naming parts of a house
Early Childhood Education
• Kindergarten Readiness
• DAIL-3
• Self-Help
– Skills at feeding, grooming, hygiene
– Dressing oneself
• Social
– Play with other children
– Compliance with adult-given instructions
– Following rules
Early Childhood Education
• Educational issues around Readiness Levels
– Many of those who test as not ready for kindergarten can
be accommodated in regular kindergarten classes
– Old-for-grade tends to be more predictive of problems
than movement into kindergarten with some additional
– Schools might be reconstrued as being ready for children
vs. children as being ready for schools

Cognitive Development in Early Childhood