The 1st Two Years: Cognitive Development

The Gibsons' Affordances

      An Affordance is each of the various opportunities for perception, action, and interaction that an 
object or place offers to any individual. Which takes precedent depends on a person's

    * Past experiences
    * Current developmental or maturational level
    * Sensory awareness of the opportunities
    * Immediate needs and motivation 

    In terms of actions controlled by the infant, the grasping and sucking reflexes are among the first to 
afford information.

Affordances for babies include; 

     The most difficult affordance for babies to understand is digestibility.

The Affordance of Falling

Ψ     A novel piece of apparatus designed by Gibson and Walk (1960) to test for the falling affordance, is 
called the 'visual cliff'. It consists of a raised central platform with a horizontal sheet of plate glass on 
either side. Under the glass, on one side only, there is a large drop to the ground below - this is the 'cliff'.

Ψ   The visual cliff was once used as “proof” of an infant's depth perception; however, later studies showed 2 to 
3 month-olds perceived depth (by monitored heart rate change), but were not fearful. They had not yet afforded 
falling (& subsequent pain) to a cliff (height). This comes with more experience as evidenced by the observation 
that 6-month-olds can be urged over the cliff by mom whereas 10-month-olds cannot.  

Ψ     The Gibson's contextual view emphasizes that early perceptual development involves a growing 
knowledge of affordances, acquired through infants' active interactions with the objects, events, and 
people around them.

Notes on Perception
  - Infants have dynamic perception - perception primed to focus on movement and change.

  - One of the most important cognitive accomplishments of infancy is the ability to understand that objects 
and people exist independently of one's perception of them even when hidden from sight.(object permanence)

 - One way to test for awareness of object performance is to use dynamic perception - specifically to asses 
whether an infant will search for an object that is hidden in their presence.

 - Renee Baillargeon did extensive experimentation on object permanence which proved that infants
understand this concept months before they demonstrate it on Piaget's hidden object task.

                           3 Key Elements of Cognitive Growth

The key elements are categorize, remember, & understand cause and effect.

(1) Categorize - putting things in categories - e.g. soft, hard, flat, round, rigit, & flexible

(2) Remember 

- Infantile amnesia (Freud's term) - poor long term memory - In order for ideas or memories to become 
conscious, it is necessary that they be associated with a language. We cannot consciously remember 
infantile experiences that occurred before language 
development began. 

- Memory Span is improved when reminder sessions are used. 

- Deferred imitation is the ability to remember & imitate witnessed behaviors, this occurs near the end 
of the 1st year.

(3) Understanding Cause & Effect

   - Launching events are used to test cause & effect understanding. A launching event is something that 
seems to start or trigger a particular happening.

Sensorimotor Intelligence

Piaget believed that humans of every age actively seek to comprehend their world & that their understanding 
of it reflects, specific age related cognitive stages. This is the concept of Active Intelligence. 

Piaget's Stages of Physical-Cognative Development (age 0-2): 

Stage 1. Reflex action.
Stage 2. Coordination of reflexes and sensorimotor repetition (primary circular reaction - feedback).
Stage 3. Activities to make interesting events in the environment reappear (secondary circular reaction).
Stage 4. Means/ends behavior and search for absent objects.
Stage 5. Experimental search for new means (tertiary circular reaction).
Stage 6. Use of imagery in insightful invention of new means and in recall of absent objects and events.

Language Development


    * Cooing 
    * Continual awareness of sound (turns to sound, stops crying when spoken to);
    * Uses eye gaze to indicate interest.
    * Babbling - at 6-7 months. When babies begin to repeat certain syllables : baba...

7-12 MONTHS:

    * First words appear (they are often people, or nouns);
    * Same syllable is repeated (mama, dada);
    * Child demonstrates increased understanding of daily routines. 


    * Child says 3-5 words;
    * Child recognizes his/her name;
    * Understands simple instructions;
    * Initiates familiar words, gestures, and sounds;
    * Child understands common objects and actions (e.g., cookie, eat, juice).


    * Naming Explosion: Child uses about 10-20 words including names
    * Child uses about 10-20 words at age 18 months including names;
    * Recognition of pictures of familiar persons, objects'
    * Early 2-word combinations of words emerge;
    * Needs are requested verbally such as "more, up";
    * Child will point, gesture, follow simple commands, imitate simple actions,
      hums or sings;
    * Distinguishes print from non print.

A child's first words are produced at approximately 14 to 20 months of age. It is common at this early stage to 
leave off consonants or consonant clusters from the beginning or end of a word. Sometimes a single word may 
represent an entire thought. "Boo" may mean "read to me." This is called a holophrase. 

24 months (2 years.):

    * Half the child's utterances to 2 or more words long;
    * Child understands simple questions and commands;
    * Vocabulary jumps to 300 words during the year!
    * Identifies familiar actions/activities in pictures (i.e. "sleeping, eating");
    * Follows directions to put objects "on, off, in";
    * Puts two words together on average;
    * Sentence length of up to three words;
    * Child will refer to self by name;
    * Labels pictures;
    * Start to use the negative "not go";
    * Final "s" is used for plurals;
    * Children will stay with one activity about 6-7 minutes.

Common Inaccuracies

    * Underextension - the only dog in the world is mine
    * Overextension - all animals are dogs

Acquisition Strategies

Ψ  Theories of Language Learning:   

      •  From Behaviorism: Infants need to be taught. The basic idea is that all learning is acquired, step by step, through 
association & reinforcement. Core ideas follow.      

          •  Parents are the teachers. 
          •  Frequent repetition is instructive, especially when linked to daily life. 
          •  Well-taught infants become well-spoken infants.   
      •  From Epigenetic theory: Infants teach themselves. The Language Acquisition Device (LAD) is a congenital, 
      organic brain function theorized by Noam Chomsky which allows humans to acquire languages. This is a 
      component of the nativist theory which suggests humans are born with the instinct or innate ability to acquire 
      language. Chomsky based its existence partly on the vast complexity of language he was familiar with as a 
      linguist. At the time it was conceived (1960–1965), it was in strict contrast to B.F. Skinner's behavioral 
      psychology which emphasized principles of learning theory such as classical and operant conditioning and 
      imitation over biological predisposition. The interactionist theory of Jerome Bruner & Jean Piaget later 
      emphasized the importance of the interaction between biological & social (nature & nurture) aspects of language 
      acquisition, the dominant theory among psychologists today (a hybrid approach).    
      •  From Sociocultural theory: Social impulses foster infant language (a social-pragmatic approach). Social 
      impulses, not explicit teaching or brain maturation lead infants to learn language as part of being a human social 
	Adults & Babies Teach Each Other!
                        Its not just Nurture - B.F Skinner
                             Its not just Nature - Noam Chomsky - LAD
                                 Its not just Social Context - Lev Vygotsky

	Its the combination of all three!
	      An emergentist coalition.
	Adults & Babies Teach Each Other!

	- by holding prelinguistic "conversations".
	 - by engaging in baby talk.
	  - when adults persistently name objects & events that capture a child's attention.
	   - when adults expand on the child's sounds & words making them into meaningful communications.
	Motherese – Name given to the restricted sort of language spoken by mothers to their children, the 
        main function of which is to teach the child the basic function & structure of language.

                                             Lifespan Growth & Development
                                                       Robert C. Gates