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Article

Development of Visually Guided Action  

Peter Vishton

Humans use visual information to select, plan, and control nearly all actions that they perform. Children are born with the ability to perform some actions, while others emerge only after several months. For instance, newborn infants can direct their eyes to attractive stimuli, but they are unable to smoothly follow these stimuli if they move. Many factors influence the action abilities of children and adults. As children mature, they become stronger and able to more precisely control their bodies. The interactions that the children have with their environment matter a great deal as well, such that the age at which children gain particular action abilities varies widely. Some developmental changes are highly action- and context-specific, but other changes broadly influence cognitive development. For instance, learning to walk enhances children’s language development. An understanding of visually guided action development is thus essential to any complete theory of human mental development. Characterizing the development of visually guided action abilities provides a better understanding of mental and physical development as well as enabling insights into how visually guided actions are learned and controlled in adults.

Article

Texture Perception  

Benjamin Balas

Texture perception is a rich subdomain of vision science that focuses on how the visual system encodes and interprets images that can be defined in terms of self-similarity over space. The field’s understanding of the computational and neural bases of texture perception has advanced, drawing upon key results from psychophysics, cognitive neuroscience, and visual development. The relevance of texture representations to a broader set of visual mechanisms supporting “statistical vision” is also discussed, with an emphasis on the challenges and potential rewards of studying texture perception in the context of natural stimuli and ecologically relevant tasks.

Article

Dynamic Integration Theory  

Manfred Diehl, Eden Griffin, and Allyson Brothers

Dynamic integration theory (DIT) describes emotion development across the lifespan, from childhood to old age. In doing so, DIT draws on a number of perspectives, such as equilibrium theories, theories of cognitive development, and theories of behavioral adaptation, and takes a strong cognitive-developmental view on emotion experience and emotion regulation. Two propositions are at the core of DIT. First, the development of emotion experience and emotion regulation proceeds from simple and automatic reactions to increasingly complex and integrated cognitive-affective structures (i.e., schemas). These cognitive-affective structures can be ordered in terms of increasing levels of cognitive complexity and integration, with integration referring to a person’s ability to acknowledge both positive and negative affect states and to tolerate and reconcile the contradictions and tensions that these states generate. Second, DIT also postulates that the efficiency with which cognitive-affective systems work is a result of the dynamic interplay between contextual variables and person-specific characteristics. Three key factors contribute to this dynamic interplay between person and context: (1) the strength of the affective arousal, (2) the person’s cognitive resources for dealing with different affect states, and (3) pre-existing trait-like dispositions and reaction tendencies that may either hinder or facilitate emotion regulation. Thus, a person’s emotion experience and emotion regulation in a given situation are the product of the dynamic interaction of these factors. Considerable empirical evidence supports the theoretical propositions of DIT, including findings speaking to changes in emotion experience and emotion regulation in later life when declines in cognitive functioning tend to become normative.

Article

Development of Judgment, Decision Making, and Rationality  

Maggie Toplak and Jala Rizeq

There is a long tradition of studying children’s reasoning and thinking in cognitive development and education. The initial studies in the cognitive development of reasoning were motivated by Piagetian models, and developmental age was thought to bring the gradual onset of logical thinking. The introduction of heuristics and biases tasks in adults and dual process models have provided new perspectives for understanding the development of reasoning, judgment, and decision-making skills. These heuristics and biases tasks provided a way to operationalize the systematic errors that people make in their judgments. Dual process models have advanced our understanding of the basic processes implicated in both optimal and non-optimal responders on several types of paradigms, including heuristics and biases tasks and classic reasoning paradigms. Importantly, these skills and competencies are generally separable from the types of higher cognition assessed on measures of intelligence and executive function task performance. Given the history of the study of reasoning in cognitive development, there is a need to integrate our understanding across these somewhat separate literatures. This is especially true given the opposite predictions that seem to be suggested in these different research traditions. Specifically, there is a focus on increasing logical development in the classic cognitive developmental literature and alternatively, there has been a focus on systematic errors in judgment and decision-making in the study of reasoning in adults. This article provides an integration of the two aforementioned perspectives that are rooted in different empirical and historical traditions. These considerations are addressed by drawing upon their research traditions and by summarizing more recent developmental work that has investigated these paradigms.

Article

New Directions in Theories of Emotion and Aging  

Joseph A. Mikels and Nathaniel A. Young

The adult life span is characterized as a time of divergent trajectories. It is a time of compounding losses (such as physical, sensory, and cognitive declines) and is also a time of surprising growth (such as improvements in well-being and emotion regulation). These divergent trajectories present theorists with the paradox of aging: in the face of accumulating losses, how is it that as people age, they generally feel good and experience greater well-being? Theorists have grappled with this paradox and have focused on how motivational, cognitive, control, and social factors impact emotional development across the adult life span. These foundational theories have paved the way to a deeper understanding of adult life-span development, but they do not draw as deeply from theories in affective science. Some of the latest perspectives on emotion and aging offer integrative views, such as how older adults may experience different discrete emotion (i.e., anger versus sadness) from an evolutionary functional perspective. Other perspectives consider how an array of appraisal processes may change across adulthood (such as shifts in evaluations of self-control versus other-control for younger versus older adults). These newer approaches dig deeper into mechanistic explanations and underscore the need for greater theoretical integration. Later life is clearly a time of increased well-being, but the field is only on the cusp of understanding the mysteries of emotional experience in later life.

Article

Spatial Development  

Jeffrey J. Lockman, Nicholas E. Fears, and Emily A. Lewis

Spatial ability is manifest across different psychological domains, including perception, action, and cognition. The development of spatial understanding originates in the perception-action skills of infants. When infants act on the world, either during object manipulation or locomotion, one may begin to glean the foundations of older children’s and adults’ efforts to think, reason, and solve problems more symbolically and abstractly. Even during infancy, different actions, such as reaching and locomotion, may incur different spatial demands, requiring infants to use spatial information flexibly. In the preschool years and beyond, as symbolic skills become more developed, children’s spatial abilities become more abstract, which are reflected in their abilities to think about the layout of environments and to use maps to learn about environments. Besides differences in spatial ability as a function of developmental level, individual differences in spatial ability have also been documented as a function of gender, daily experience, and blindness. Collectively, research on individual differences in spatial development suggests that training procedures can reduce differences in spatial skill that may arise in different individuals. Finally, to understand spatial development more fully, research is needed on the neural bases of spatial development, cross-cultural differences in spatial development, and the impact of technology on spatial behavior.

Article

Cognitive Development in Chimpanzees  

Tetsuro Matsuzawa

Cognitive development in chimpanzees has been illuminated through fieldwork and laboratory studies. Their life history reveals the importance of the mother–infant relationship. Females give birth at 5-year intervals on average, and the infants cling to their mothers in the first 3 months. Each chimpanzee community has its own unique cultural traditions, for example in tool use. How tools are used is passed across generations through social learning, in a process called education by master-apprenticeship. Laboratory studies in the early 21st century examined chimpanzees’ learning abilities even at the fetal stage. Chimpanzee and human cognition appear similar in both physical and social domains, and they follow the same developmental stages. However, there is a fundamental difference in the levels of complexity of hierarchical structure. Chimpanzees do not show the recursive and infinite levels that characterize human cognition. Chimpanzees are good at memorizing things at a glance but less skilled at representing things through imagination. The cognitive trade-off between working memory and language may explain the essential difference in cognitive development in the two species.

Article

Coaching Behavior and Effectiveness in Sport and Exercise Psychology  

Ronald E. Smith and Frank L. Smoll

Coaches occupy a central role in sport, fulfilling instructional, organizational, strategic, and social relationship functions, and their relationships with athletes influence both skill development and psychosocial outcomes of sport participation. This review presents the major theoretical models and empirical results derived from coaching research, focusing on the measurement and correlates of coaching behaviors and on intervention programs designed to enhance coaching effectiveness. A strong empirical literature on motor skill development has addressed the development of technical sport skills, guided in part by a model that divides the skill acquisition process into cognitive, associative, and autonomous phases, each requiring specific coaching knowledge and instructional techniques. Social-cognitive theory’s mediational model, the multidimensional model of sport leadership, achievement goal theory, and self-determination theory have been highly influential in research on the psychosocial aspects of the sport environment. These conceptual models have inspired basic research on the antecedents and consequences of defined coaching behaviors as well as applied research on coach training programs designed to enhance athletes’ sport outcomes. Of the few programs that have been systematically evaluated, outcomes such as enjoyment, liking for coach and teammates, team cohesion, self-esteem, performance anxiety, athletes’ motivational orientation, and sport attrition can be influenced in a salutary fashion by a brief intervention with specific empirically derived behavioral guidelines that focus on creating a mastery motivational climate and positive coach-athlete interactions. However, other existing programs have yet to demonstrate efficacy in controlled outcome research.

Article

The Genetic Epistemology of Jean Piaget  

Jeremy Trevelyan Burman

Jean Piaget (1896–1980) is known for his contributions to developmental psychology and educational theory. His name is associated especially with Stage Theory. That we believe him to have focused solely on cognitive development, however, is not because he did. This is instead the result of the popularization of his writings in the United States during the Cold War. (A period of crisis and subsequent education reform.) The overpowering influence of those interests blinded us to his larger framework, which he called “genetic epistemology,” and of which his stages were just a part. To address the resulting and continuing misunderstandings, this essay presents original historical scholarship—distilling over a thousand pages of archival documents (correspondence, diary entries, budgets, and reports)—to provide an insider’s look at Piaget’s research program from the perspective of the Rockefeller Foundation: genetic epistemology’s primary funding agency in the United States from the mid-1950s through the early-1960s. The result is an examination of how a group of interested Americans came to understand Piaget’s writings in French in the period just prior to their wider popularization in English, as well as of how Piaget presented himself and his ideas during the reconstruction of Europe after World War II. My goal, however, is not to summarize the whole of this misunderstood program. Instead, I aim to provide a source of archivally-grounded perspective that will allow for new insights about the Genevan School that are unrelated to American Cold War interests. In the process, we also derive new means to see how Piaget’s experimental examinations of the development of individual knowledge served to inform his team’s investigations of the evolution of science (and vice versa).