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The intention-to-CAUSE bias: Evidence from children’s causal language

The current study explored causal language in 3.5- to 4-year-old children by manipulating the type of agent (human acting intentionally or unintentionally, or inanimate object) and the type of effect (motion or state change) in causal events. Experiment 1 found that the type of agent, but not the type of effect, influenced children’s production of causal language. Children produced more causal language for intentionally caused events than for either unintentionally- or object-caused events, independent of the type of effect. Experiment 2, which tested children’s judgments of descriptions for the events, found a similar pattern. Children preferred causal descriptions more for the intentionally caused events than the unintentionally- and the object-caused events. Experiment 3 found no evidence of bias in children’s non-linguistic representations of the events. Taken together, these results suggest an intention-to-CAUSE bias in children’s mapping of conceptual representations of causality into linguistic structure. We discuss the implications of these results for the acquisition of causal language and for the development of conceptual representations of causality.

from Cognition

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Piagetian and Vygotskian Approaches to Language Acquisition

Both Piaget and Vygotsky were centrally concerned with the ontogenetic relationships between language, cognition, and social life. Recently, researchers have drawn on their observations and hypotheses to establish much closer links between these phenomena than either theorist ever imagined. In investigating the cognitive bases of early language, very close links have been established between specific cognitive achievements and the acquisition of certain types of early words, for example between object permanence development and the acquisition of words for disappearance and between means ends development and the acquisition of words for success/failure. In investigating the social bases of early language, close links have been established between the quantity and quality of joint attentional social interactions in which a child and an adult engage and the child’s early word learning skills. Despite their seminal contributions to the study of early language development along these two lines, neither Piaget nor Vygotsky fully appreciated the skills of social cognition that underlie the acqusition of language.

from Human Development

Taking and Coordinating Perspectives: From Prereflective Interactivity, through Reflective Intersubjectivity, to Metareflective Sociality

Despite being eclipsed in recent years by simulation theory, theory of mind and accounts of executive functioning, social-relational approaches to perspective taking and coordination based on the ideas of Jean Piaget and George Herbert Mead have never completely disappeared from the literature of developmental psychology. According to the social-relational view presented here, perspectives are holistic orientations to situations, within which individuals coordinate their actions and interactions with objects and others. The developmental processes by which perspectives are occupied, differentiated, and coordinated move from (1) prereflective interactivity (i.e., positioning within routine, repetitive interactive sequences during infancy and early childhood), to (2) reflective intersubjectivity (i.e., the simultaneous consideration and use of multiple perspectives within the intersubjective transactions of later childhood and early adolescence – processes that are accelerated and extended through increasingly sophisticated uses of language), and finally to (3) metareflective sociality (i.e., the abstracted and generalized social engagement across a diversity of personal, interpersonal, and sociocultural perspectives witnessed in mature adult negotiations and problem solving). These social-relational processes are used to reinterpret, revise, and extend Robert Selman’s theory of the development of perspective taking and coordination. The result is a developmental process of occupying, experiencing, coordinating, and engaging across a diversity of perspectives within interactive, intersubjective, and psychological-sociocultural transactions that spans the course of individuals’ lives and captures some facets of the complex, transformative, and ongoing interplay between societies and persons.

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