Manual Changing Conceptions of Psychological Life (Jean Piaget Symposia Series)

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When they do so, they are entering the stage of concrete operations. Overcoming centration can be seen in three main forms. First, the child might use the identity argument — that you haven't added or take any away, so it has to be the same. Second, the argument of compensation might be used, where the child states that tallness of the one glass and the wideness of the other glass cancel each other out.

Third, an inversion reasoning is possible, where the child might suggest they are still the same because you can pour water from the wide glass back into the tall glass to create two equal looking glasses once again. Since these are mental actions, the child does not actually need to perform or have seen the transformations they are talking about. Piaget argued that children master centration and conservation spontaneously.

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The crucial moment comes when the child is in a state of internal contradiction. Once this internal contradiction is resolved by the child themselves, by taking into account multiple aspects of the problem, they decenter and move up onto the concrete operational stage. Multitasking, seen through cognitive flexibility and set-shifting, requires decentration so that attention may be shifted between multiple salient objects or situations.

As well, decentration is essential to reading and math skills in order for children to move beyond the individual letters and to the words and meanings presented. As shown earlier, the aspect of quantitative understanding that most interested Piaget was the child's ability to conserve quantities in the face of perceptual change. Later studies have not disproved Piaget's contention that a full understanding of conservation is a concrete operational achievement.

Recent work does suggest, however, that there may be earlier, partial forms of understanding that were missed in his studies. Investigators have simplified conservation tasks in various ways. Although such changes do not eliminate the non-conservation error completely, they often result in improved performance by supposedly preoperational 4- and 5-year-olds.

A study by Rochel Gelman [20] provides a nice example. In some cases, the length of the row was changed; in other cases one of the mice was removed. The children were unfazed by the change in length, continuing to treat the plate was a winner.

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An actual change in number, however, was responded to quite differently, eliciting search behaviours and various attempt at an explanation. The children thus showed a recognition that number, at least in this situation, should remain invariant. One should note, however, that studies purporting to show earlier competence on conservation tasks have themselves been criticized. Children's complete of these tasks, therefore, may be due more to perceptual mechanisms rather than cognitive mechanisms of true conservation and an understanding of invariance.

Thus, children may simply be sensitive to discriminating the delete or addition of information, rather than conserving information across changes in the display. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the engineering term, see Centration engineering In psychology, centration is the tendency to focus on one salient aspect of a situation and neglect other, possibly relevant aspects.

Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications 6th ed. Six psychological studies. Translated by Tenzer, Anita; Elkind, David. Translated by Cattegno, C. Interestingly, Myowa-Yamakoshi et al. However, the use of facial behaviours creates particular difficulties for imitation research, such as changes in the method of social engagement and responding with age Meltzoff and Moore, , high frequency baseline levels and the complication of using a socially important stimulus such as a face as a tool in imitation Nagy et al. Such difficulties have led Nagy and colleagues to focus their neonatal imitation research on the production of fine motor movement with other body parts.

Whilst this research is still in its infancy, it holds much promise for expanding our knowledge of how and why young infants imitate. An early study with index finger movement has already indicated the role that neonatal imitation appears to have in social exchanges and communication between the preverbal neonate and adult.

In Nagy and Molnar , neonates aged 3- to hours not only responded to the demonstrated extension of the index finger with a similar response but also, over time, appeared to be attempting to initiate these interchanges.

Thus, it appears that the newborn infant is both capable and motivated to engage in these early social interactions. Examining the progressive refinement of imitative acts such as those observed in Nagy et al. Infants in these studies produce an initial response to the stimulus but then, over successive trials, modify that response to more accurately reflect the model.

Thus the infant appears to be learning across trials and progressively shaping his own response as he repeatedly observes the model. The results of this highly cited study hint at the early age at which human infants might be able to create and maintain memory representations. Although the range of imitative behaviours that have been studied with neonates remains limited, the research to date provides intriguing clues about the social and cognitive abilities present within a few months of the infant entering the world.

However, the potential of simple movements for studying developmental change in cognitive abilities beyond the neonatal period is restricted by the decrease in responding in facial imitation occurring around 2 months of age, and the rapid changes in fine motor control across early infancy.

Furthermore, a focus on body-part movement confounds learning, memory and previous experience because infants can independently perform these behaviours prior to the demonstration, resulting in the opportunity for incremental learning. Studies of cognitive development utilising imitation procedures have therefore primarily focused on imitation of actions-with-objects, where unique actions are performed with novel stimuli.

In a typical imitation task, the infant observes the experimenter demonstrate a target action, or series of target actions, with the stimuli. After watching the demonstration, the infant is given the stimuli, and the number of target actions reproduced is recorded. Crucially, the target actions produced by infants in these demonstration conditions are compared to the actions produced by infants in a control condition who have not seen a demonstration of the target actions.

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Learning is inferred if the demonstration group produce a significantly greater number of target actions than the control group produce through spontaneous exploration. This type of imitation paradigm is referred to as actions-with-objects imitation, and is readily exhibited by infants aged between 6- and months of age e. Inserting a delay interval between when the infant observes the target actions and when he has the opportunity to interact with the stimuli creates a task with memory demands.

In order for the infant to imitate the target actions after the delay interval, he must remember what he has seen. By manipulating factors such as the duration of the delay interval, and the similarity of the events and stimuli experienced at the time of learning and memory retrieval, we can explore developmental changes in memory capacity, complexity, and flexibility that occur across the infancy period.

Research with the deferred imitation paradigm has revealed major changes in retention span, rate of learning, memory for relations between stimuli and contextual details, and the ability to generalise memory retrieval across stimuli and contexts. Each of these developments will be reviewed in turn below.

However, to fully appreciate the results of studies with the deferred imitation paradigm it is first important to consider what type of memory deferred imitation reflects. Memory systems have been roughly divided into declarative and non-declarative forms for review, see Squire, Declarative memory is memory for facts and events, and is so-called because it has often been identified by the level of consciousness that accompanies encoding and retrieval.

This memory system is assumed to be more mature than other forms of memory, emerging later in development. Non-declarative memories are memories for habit and skills acquired through recent or repeated exposure to a stimulus. The term non-declarative memory is an umbrella term covering many different types of memory types that are thought to emerge early in development.. The division of memory into these two categories was primarily established to explain the dichotomous performance of patients with temporal lobe amnesia on memory tasks.

Temporal lobe amnesiacs perform normally on non-declarative memory tasks such as simple delay conditioning and mirror learning, but perform poorly on declarative memory tasks for review see Squire, , Eichenbaum, Such findings suggest that the temporal lobe of the brain is crucial to declarative memory. Identifying the medial temporal lobe including, crucially, the hippocampal region as the brain region most closely associated with declarative memory has facilitated explorations in animal populations through the use of lesion studies e.

Eichenbaum, , ; Eichenbaum and Bunsey, However, current brain imaging techniques do not allow us to map the development of the hippocampus in sufficient detail in human infants. Developing tasks that tap declarative memory is therefore an important way to explore the development of both declarative memory and the hippocampal region in infancy.

As memory performance in the deferred imitation paradigm is based on a brief observation of a set of target actions, without prior motor practice or trial-and-error learning, many researchers have argued that this task provides a measure of declarative memory e. The finding that patients with temporal lobe amnesia or developmental amnesia associated with a reduction in hippocampal volume also have difficulty with an adult-appropriate version of the deferred imitation task provides support for the idea that deferred imitation tasks are a non-verbal measure of declarative memory McDonough et al.

Furthermore, the pattern of retention exhibited in the deferred imitation paradigm conforms closely to that seen in declarative memory paradigms. What has the last twenty years of deferred imitation research been able to reveal about how declarative memory develops in infancy? Key findings from this paradigm about the emergence of declarative memory, changes in memory processing across early development, and the flexibility of memory retrieval are reviewed below.

Bachevalier, Indeed, whilst some structures in the hippocampal formation are mature at birth, others are not fully functional until the 3rd or 4th year of life Seress, Prior to this stage, Piaget postulated that the infant did not have the cognitive structures necessary to store information and as such the infant was limited to reproducing actions in the here-and-now. With the emergence of deferred imitation, the infant demonstrated that he or she was no longer constrained to a specific time or place and could apply his or her knowledge when confronted with new situations and tasks.

When motor demands are sufficiently reduced, 6-month-old infants can remember a sequence of actions for 24 hours Barr et al. Memory development in infancy has more recently been characterized as a continuous process of change than a discontinuous shift that reflects the onset of a declarative memory system Hayne, ; Rovee-Collier et al.

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In a commonly used imitation task developed by Barr et al. At months of age, seeing these target actions demonstrated three times in succession is sufficient to support memory retrieval after a hour retention interval Barr et al. At 6-months of age, however, infants only show evidence of retention over a hour delay if they have seen the actions six times in a single session.

The fact that 6-month-olds fail to imitate after hours when they see the actions demonstrated three times does not reflect a complete failure of encoding — when tested immediately they show similar levels of memory to the older infants Barr et al. Younger infants appear to require more exposure time to create a representation that is strong enough to persist over the longer retention interval, implying that speed of encoding increases across the first year of life.

Whilst 6-month-old infants remember the puppet task for hours Barr et al. Declarative memory during the first year of life.

In a related task, which month-old infants also remember for 2 weeks, month-old infants can remember the target actions for 3 months Herbert and Hayne, In both of these studies, strength of encoding was equated by testing additional groups of infants immediately and ensuring that levels of initial encoding and spontaneous baseline levels of performance were comparable across age groups.

Age-related differences are, therefore, observed in the duration over which a memory representation can be maintained. Different tasks result in different estimates of retention. For example, although 6-month-old infants exhibit hour retention in the puppet task, the same age group exhibit immediate imitation only, and no retention at hours, with a stimuli that requires the infant to push a recessed button on a toy Herbert et al.

Similarly, the duration of retention can be prolonged in the puppet task by providing the infant with providing additional brief exposure to the stimuli during the retention interval. For example, Barr et al. Repeated reminders prolonged 6-month-olds retention for 2-and-a-half months, a duration of retention which is comparable to the retention span of a 2-year-old.


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It appears possible to increase or decrease the duration over which a memory can be maintained for infants of any age. Across ages, however, there is a developmental increase in the duration over which the same event will be remembered for. For example, memory for an imitation task can be retrieved over substantial delays if it is associated with another task that is typically remembered for longer, such as an operant conditioning task.

If infants were allowed to retrieve the memory of the train task first, infants imitated the target actions in the puppet task after 2 weeks, the same duration over which the train task is remembered. Thus, infants had formed an association between the two tasks that allowed memory for the train task to cue memory in the deferred imitation paradigm.

Lifespan Psychology - Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

This implies that memory for a motor skill, acquired through repeated practice, may facilitate memory for passively observed actions. The nature of the link between learning through practice and learning through observation has been explored directly with a range of imitation tasks. Barr and Hayne showed month-old infants a sequence of actions performed with a set of stimuli.