Cognitive Development

Brain Development

- Born with all the brain cells we will ever have

- Nervous system still immature at birth

- Connections between neurons still forming

Infantile amnesia: the general tendency for people to have poor memory for events in their lives occurring before the age of three

- Infant Memory

- Memory does exist in infants

- Difficult to retrieve when older

- Implicit memories of images, sounds, and emotions

- Recall can be improved with cues and repetition

- Experience

- Learning environment

- Enriched environment
-  Leads to heavier and thicker brain cortexes (in rats)
- Determines neuronal connections
- For optimum brain development, the early years are critical

- Experience

- Affects neural tissues throughout life
- Experience develops stronger pathways
- Disuse results in smaller/weaker pathways

Stages of Cognitive Development

- Jean Piaget

- Interested in cognitive development

- Observed common mistakes made by children of same age

- Schemas

- Concepts we form for commonly occurring events, objects, and situations in our world

- Children as active thinkers

- Assimilation

- Involves the creation of a new schema

- Accommodation

- Involves adapting existing schemas to understand and explain the particulars of new experiences

- Stages

- Acquisition of basic schemas for understanding the world

- Sensorimotor stage

- World understood through sensory and motor actions with objects
- No grasp of object permanence
Object permanence: develops when a child recognizes that objects continue to exist even when they are no longer visible
- Transition from behavior dominated by reflex actions to being able to use mental symbols to represent objects

- Preoperational Stage

- Unable to perform mental operations (reversible mental processes)
- Lack essential concepts
Conservation: the awareness that physical quantities remain constant despite changes in their shape or appearance
Reversibility: the ability to envision reversal of an action
- Can’t mentally “undo” and action
- Egocentric thinking
- The tendency for the child to see the world as centered around his or herself
- Cannot take the perspective of another person
- A notable feature of egocentrism is animism
Animism: the belief that all things are living just like oneself
- Preoperational children seem to reason concretely if only they are tested in a certain fashion

- Concrete Operational Stage

- Can perform mental operations on concrete objects
- Have trouble performing mental operations with abstract or hypothetical ideas
- Gain the mental ability to comprehend mathematical transformations
- Can perform operations only on images of tangible objects and actual events

- Formal Operational Stage

- Typically begins around 11 years of age
- Children begin to apply their operations to abstract concepts in addition to concrete objects
- Thinking begins to encompass imagined realities and symbols
- Become capable of logical deductive reasoning and systematic planning
- Developmental changes after this point are more in the degree of thinking rather than in the nature of thinking


- Begin to be capable of abstract logic

- Can reason hypothetically and deduce consequences

- Enables them to detect inconsistencies in others’ reasoning and between their ideals and their actions


- Young adulthood

- Peak time for some types of learning and remembering

- Memory for names

- Crook & West (1990)

- Videotaped introductions
- 14 videotaped people said their names
- Results

- Recall versus Recognition

- Memory ability

- Depends on the type of information to remember and the tests given

- Schonfield and Robertson (1966)

- Asked adults of various ages to learn a list of 24 words.
- Free recall test
- Younger adults had better recall
- Recognition test
- No decline in memory with age

- Type of information

- Meaningless material
- Memory declines with age
- Meaningful material
- No decline with age

Physical Development


-  Research Techniques

-  Limited range of possible  responses

-  Capitalize on what babies can accomplish

-  Habituation

Habituation:  decreasing responsiveness with repeated stimulation
-  New stimuli receive more attention
-  Stimuli receive less attention with exposure
-  Gaze
-  Vision
-  Memory
-  Sucking
-  Increased rate of sucking when aroused
-  Hearing

-  Senses

-  Vision

-  Hearing

-  Smell

-  Physical reflexes

-  Used to test for neurological or developmental abnormalities

-  Adaptive

-  Rooting reflex

– Stimulus
-  Gentle touch on cheek
- Response
-  Turns towards source of the stroking
- Adaptive value

-  Sucking reflex

– Stimulus
-  Insertion of nipple or finger into infant's mouth
-  Response
-  Sucks on object inserted
-  Adaptive value

-  Grasping reflex

– Stimulus
-  Pressing an object against the palm of the infant's hand
-  Response
-  Grasps object
-  Adaptive value

-  Orienting reflex

– Stimulus
-  Sudden changes in environment
-  Response
-  Orienting towards source of the change
-  Adaptive value

 -  Motor Development

-  Direction

Cephalocaudal trend: the head-to-foot direction of motor development
- Infants gain control over upper parts of their bodies before the lower parts
Proximodistal trend: the center-outward direction of motor development.
- Infants gain control over their torsos before they gain control over their extremities

-  Sequence

-  Developmental milestones
-  Lifting head
-  Rolling Over
-  Sitting without support
-  Standing
-  Walking

Adolescent Physical Development

-  Puberty

Puberty: the process by which the body becomes sexually mature

-  Hormones

-  Intensification of moods
-  Rapid physical development

-  Consistent changes

-  Timing varies

-  Puberty: Growth Spurt

-  Boys

-  Begins around age 13
-  Will grow about 5 inches a year

-  Girls

-  Begins around age 11
-  Will grow 3 about inches a year

-  Puberty: Physical Changes

-  Primary sex characteristics

-  Reproductive organs
-  External genitalia

-  Secondary sex characteristics

-  Non-reproductive traits
-  Girls
-  Enlarged breasts and hips
-  Boys
-  Facial hair and a deepened voice in boys

-  Landmarks of Puberty

-  Boys

-  First ejaculation
-  Usually occurs by the age of 14

-  Girls

-  First menstrual period
-  Typically occurs by age 13


-  Physical abilities

-  Peak in early to mid twenties

-  Decline slow and gradual

-  Athletes first to notice

-  Physical vigor

-  Less to do with age
-  More to do with health and exercise

Old Age

-  True/False Quiz

-  Life expectancy

-  Increase in last 45 years from 49 to 67

-  Women outlive men from 3 to 7 years

-  Sensory abilities

-  Vision

-  Pupil shrinks
-  Lens becomes less transparent
-  Reduces amount of light entering the retina
-  Lens less flexible
-  Difficult to focus on near details
-  Reading glasses

-  Hearing

-  Sensitivity to high frequencies decreases with age
-  30 years old
-  50 years old
-  70 years old

-  Health

-  Immune system weakens

-  Lifetime accumulation of antibodies

-  Managed health care

-  Age and traffic fatalities

Social Development

Stages of Psychosocial Development

Erik Erikson (1963)


Trust versus Mistrust

“Is my social world predictable and supportive?”


Autonomy versus Shame/Doubt

“Can I do things by myself or must I always rely on others?”

Preschool child

Initiative versus Guilt

“Am I good or bad?”


Competence versus Inferiority

“Am I successful or worthless?”


Identity versus Role Confusion

“Who am I? Who will I be?”

Young adulthood

Intimacy versus Isolation

“Shall I share my life with another person or live alone?”

Middle adulthood

Generativity versus Stagnation

“Will I produce something of value? Will I succeed in my life? Will I in some way give something back to society”

Old age

Integrity versus Despair

“Have I lived a full life or have I failed?”


Trust and mistrust

Child forms bonds with their caregivers

Attachment: the close, emotional bonds of affection that develop between infants and their caregivers


Likely to approach caregivers for comfort

Most easily soothed by caregivers

Show little fear of caregivers

Origins of Attachment

Satisfaction of biological needs

Satisfaction of emotional

Harry Harlow (1950's)

Isolated 8 infant rhesus monkeys
Wire "mother"
Terry cloth "mother"
4 monkeys bottle fed by wire mother
4 monkeys bottle fed by terry cloth mother
Examined time spent clinging to each "mother"
- All preferred cloth mother.
Contact comfort: comfortable skin sensations

Key to attachment

Providing a secure base from which to explore the world and a safe haven in times of stress

Infants can also become attached to fathers and others providing emotional comfort and support

Attachment Paradigm

Child comes into lab already attached to caregiver

Need to measure degree of attachment

Strange situation paradigm

Children's behavior in this paradigm provides an operation definition of attachment
- Baby & caregiver enter playroom
- After time, caregiver leaves and a stranger enters and sits down
- Stranger leaves and caregiver returns
- Cycle repeats itself again

Types of Attachment Relationships

Secure attachment

Uses caregiver as a base for exploration

Anxious attachment

Responses towards the caregiver fluctuate between happy and angry

Anxious and avoidant attachment

Parenting styles and attachment

Parent interaction with child correlated with attachment style of child


- Responsive to their infants signals from the very beginning


Attend to the infant when it suits caregiver but ignored them at other times


May be impatient and frustrated with child rearing

Harlow’s wire-fed monkeys

Effects of emotional deprivation
Novel situations
Don't have the courage to explore
Don't know how to interact with others
Don't know how to engage in sexual relations
Awful parents

Adolescence: Identity formation

Separation from parents

Arguments occur

Small issues

Most adolescents closely reflect the social, political, and religious views of their parents

Early twenties

Emotional ties continue to loosen.

Many still lean heavily on their parents

– Continued education

Late twenties

Most feel comfortably independent of their parents

Better able to empathize with parents as fellow adults

Graduation from adolescence to adulthood

Taking longer
Finish college
Leave the nest
Establish careers

Age of first marriage

Increased 4 years in the last 40 years

Adulthood:  Job satisfaction

For adults identity depends on job

Career choices are difficult to predict

Shift majors

Post college employment in fields not directly related to majors

Change careers at some point in life

Best training for today's graduates

Broad liberal education

Service producing industries will account for most of the new jobs

Business, health, and education

Jobs requiring the most education and training

Fastest growing

Highest paying

Most important skills for today's graduates

Communication skills

Interpersonal skills

Teamwork skills

Jobs and Life Satisfaction

Adults satisfied with their job are usually satisfied with their life

85%-90% of workers satisfied with job

Could easily imagine being more satisfied.

Level of satisfaction varies with age

Younger workers less satisfied than older workers

Death and Dying

Most of us will suffer and cope with the deaths of relatives and friends

Difficult separations


Untimely death of loved one

Cultural reactions to death

Reflects perceptions of death

American culture

Soul lives on

Buddhist and Hindu cultures


Soul is born again in a new human body

Gond culture of India

Death is believe to be caused by magic and demons
React to death with anger

Tanala culture in Madagascar

Death is thought to be caused by natural forces
Peacefully react to death

Stages in Facing Death

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (1969)

“On Death and Dying”
Suggested that people go through five stages of adjustment to death
Loved ones or own impending death
Move through stages in any order
Sometimes skip stages


The refusal to accept the information about having an incurable condition


Rage against doctors, nurses,relatives, circumstances in life that brought them to this state
“Why Me??”


Promising good behavior in the future in return for recovery


Sadness about losing life
Some people become very depressed, but not all do


A readiness to die
Lose interest in most of what is happening around them
Loosening their ties with life