Part II The First Two Years: Cognitive Development Chapter Six Sensorimotor Intelligence

Kathleen Stassen Berger
Part II
Chapter Six
The First Two Years: Cognitive Development
Sensorimotor Intelligence
Information Processing
Language: What Develops in the
First Two Years?
Prepared by Madeleine Lacefield
Tattoon, M.A.
The First Two Years: Cognitive Development
• Infant cognition
– cognition = “thinking”
• “thinking” in a very broad sense includes…
– language
– learning
– memory
– intelligence
The First Two Years: Cognitive Development
• Infants organize by the end of the first
sensations and perceptions
sequence and direction
the familiar and the strange
objects and people
events and experiences
permanence and transiency
cause and effect
Sensorimotor Intelligence
• Remember…
– Piaget’s first stage (chapter 2)
• infants learn through senses and
motor actions
Piaget and Research Methods
• Piaget’s sensorimotor intelligence actually
occurs earlier for most infants than Piaget
– Habituation, the process of getting used to (i.e., bored with)
a stimulus after repeated exposure. An infant can show this
by looking away.
– If a new object appears and the infant reacts (change in
heart rate, sucking), it is assumed they recognize the object
as something different.
• Summing up…
– In six stages of sensorimotor, Piaget discovered, described,
and then celebrated active infant learning.
Information Processing Theory
• “a perspective that compares human
thinking processes, by analogy, to
computer analysis of data, including
sensory input, connections, stored
memories, and output”
Information Processing Theory
• With the aid of technology this theory has found
some impressive intellectual capacities in the
• Intellectual capacities, concepts, and categories
seem to develop in the infant brain by 6 months
• Perspective helps tie together various aspects of
infant cognition: affordance and memory.
Information Processing Theory
• affordance
– “…an opportunity for perception and
interaction that is offered by a person,
place, or object in the environment”
• afford = offer
• perception is the mental processing of
information that arrives at the brain from
the sensory organs
Information Processing Theory
• affordance
– One puzzle of development is that two
people can have discrepant perceptions of
the same situation, not only interpreting it
differently but actually observing it
• depending on:
– past experiences
– current developmental level
– sensory awareness of opportunities
– immediate needs and motivation
Information Processing Theory
• Research on Early Affordance
– Information processing improves over the
first year as infants become quicker to
– Experiences affect which affordances are
Information Processing Theory
• Sudden Drops
– …the visual cliff, an apparatus to
measure depth perception
– infants become interested in “crossing”
the cliff about 8 months (having had
experience falling)
– the cliff “affords” danger for older infants
Information Processing Theory
• Movement and People
– infants have:
• dynamic perception
– primed to focus on movement and change
• a people preference
– a universal principle of infant perception,
consisting of an innate attraction to other
humans, which is evident in visual, auditory,
tactile, and other preferences
Information Processing Theory
• Memory
– Developmentalists now agree that even
very young infants can remember under
the following circumstances:
• experimental conditions are similar to
“real life”
• motivation is high
• special measures are taken to aid
memory retrieval
Information Processing Theory
• Reminders and Repetition
– reminder sessions
• a perceptual experience that is
intended to help a person recollect an
idea, a thing, or an experience, without
testing whether the person remembers
it at the moment
Information Processing Theory
• A Little Older, a Little More Memory
– after about 6 months infants can retain
information for longer periods of time…
with less training or reminding
– by the middle of the 2nd year toddlers
can remember and reenact more
complex sequences
Information Processing Theory
• Aspects of Memory
– Memory is not one “thing”
• brain-imaging techniques reveal many
distinct brain regions devoted to
particular aspects of memory
– implicit memory is memory for routines
and memories that remain hidden until
particular stimulus bring them to mind
– explicit memory is memory that can be
recalled on demand
Language: What Develops
in the First Two Years?
• “The acquisition of language,… its
idiomatic phases, grammar rules,
and exceptions, is the most
impressive intellectual achievement
of the young child.”
Language: What Develops
in the First Two Years?
• The Universal Sequence
– Around the world children follow the
same sequence of early language
Language: What Develops
in the First Two Years?
• Listening and Responding
• infants begin learning language before
• infants prefer speech over other sounds
– child-directed speech
• the high-pitched, simplified, and
repetitive way adults speak to infants
Language: What Develops
in the First Two Years?
• Babbling
– repeating certain syllables (e.g., da-dada).
• all babies babble, even deaf babies
(although later and less frequently).
• babbling is a way to communicate.
Language: What Develops
in the First Two Years?
• First Words
– usually around 1 year the average baby
speaks, or signs a few words
• they are often familiar nouns
– by 13 months spoken language increases very
– 6 to 15 month-olds learn meaning rapidly and
comprehend about 10 times as many words
as they speak
Language: What Develops
in the First Two Years?
• The Naming Explosion
– a sudden increase in an infant’s
vocabulary, especially in the number of
nouns begins at about 18 months
– vocabulary reaches about 50 expressed
words at a rate of 50 to 100 per month,
21 month-olds saying twice as many as
18 month-olds
Language: What Develops
in the First Two Years?
• Cultural Differences
– the ratio of nouns to verbs and
adjectives show cultural influences.
– one explanation is the language itself
(i.e. English, Chinese differ)
– another explanation is social context
(toys and objects)
– every language has some concepts
encoded in adult speech
Language: What Develops
in the First Two Years?
• Sentences
– “The first words soon take on nuances
of tone, loudness, and cadence that are
precursors of the first grammar, because
a single word can convey many
messages by the way it is spoken.”
Language: What Develops
in the First Two Years?
• Sentences
“Dada!” “Dada?” and “Dada.”
– each is a holophrase, a single word that
expresses a complete, meaningful thought.
– intonations varying in tone and pitch is extensive
in babbling and again in holophrases at about 18
– grammar--all the methods that languages use to
communicate meaning. Word order, prefixes,
intonation, verb forms,… are all aspects of
Language: What Develops
in the First Two Years?
• Theories of Language Learning
• 2 year olds worldwide use language well
• bilingual children keep two languages
separate and speak whatever language a
listen understands
– each theory of language acquisition has
implications for parents and educators…all
want children to speak fluently…without
Language: What Develops
in the First Two Years?
• Theories of Language Learning
– There are 3 theories of how infants
learn language:
• they are taught (view of B. F. Skinner)
• they teach themselves (view of Noam
• social impulses foster learning
Language: What Develops
in the First Two Years?
• Theory One: Infants Need to Be Taught
– 50 years ago the dominant learning theory in North America
was behaviorism
– B. F. Skinner (1957) noticed that spontaneous babbling is
usually reinforced… a grinning mother appears, repeating,
praising, giving attention to the infant
– Parents are expert teachers, other caregivers help
– Frequent repetitions instructive when linked to daily life
– Well-taught infants become well-spoken children
Language: What Develops
in the First Two Years?
• Theory Two: Infants Teach Themselves
– a contrary theory is that language learning is
innate--adults need not teach it
– Norm Chomsky (1968,1980) felt that
language is too complex to be mastered
merely through step-by-step conditioning
Language: What Develops
in the First Two Years?
• Theory Two: Infants Teach Themselves
– universal grammar--all young children master
basic language at about the same age
– Language acquisition device (LAD)
• a term used for a hypothesized mental structure
that enables humans to learn language, including
the basic aspects of grammar, vocabulary and
Language: What Develops
in the First Two Years?
• Theory Three: Social Impulses Foster Infant
– a third theory called social-pragmatic perceives the
crucial starting point to be neither vocabulary
reinforcement (behaviorism) nor innate connection
(epigenetic), but rather the social reason for
language; communication
– Infants communicate in every way they can because
humans are social beings and depend on one
another for survival and joy
Language: What Develops
in the First Two Years?
Language: What Develops
in the First Two Years?
• A Hybrid Theory
– the integration of all three perspectives…
notably in a monograph based on 12
experiments designed by 8 researchers
– their model an emergentist coalition…
combing valid aspects of several theories
about the emergence of language during