Cognitive Development and Biological Factors – Cognition (PSY)

by Tarry Ahuja, PhD

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    00:01 Now, let’s look at development of cognition.

    00:01 Now, let’s look at development of cognition.

    00:04 So how is this happening over time? We know that we’re not born with full cognition.

    00:08 This is something that develops.

    00:10 So Jean Piaget was a developmental psychologist and he studied cognitive development in children.

    00:15 And what he believed is that children were not “mini-versions” of adults but instead were unique and that they actually develop and change over time.

    00:24 So children form mental frameworks termed “schemas” that are formed and shaped by experience, and, again, we’ve used this term “schema” before.

    00:32 And so it’s really important that we understand that the schemas that we ultimately use as adults a lot of times are shaped by what’s being done as children.

    00:41 So new experiences will either be, either A, assimilated, which conforms to an existing schema, or accommodated and it’s adjusted to fix our schemas.

    00:50 So the schema is a reference point.

    00:52 And if something aligns quite nicely, it’s easily for us to incorporate that into our existing schema, if it’s different and you’re like, “Wow! I’ve never seen that,” or “Never thought of it that way before,” we need to adjust our schema.

    01:04 So an example would be a Boogie monster in the closet.

    01:07 Now, we know that there’s no such thing.

    01:10 As adults, there’s no such thing as a Boogie monster.

    01:12 There’s no scary monster period.

    01:15 And so that goes against a schema that the child might have that monsters exist, but when they grow up and they realize that monsters don’t exist, you have to adjust your schema.

    01:29 So, Piaget’s model included four developmental stages and we’ll go through each.

    01:34 The first is the sensorimotor stage.

    01:35 This is really, really early on, so birth to age two.

    01:38 Then we move on to the preoperational stage, two to seven, the concrete operational stage, seven to eleven, and then formal operational stage, twelve to adulthood.

    01:47 Now, these time points are sort of generalizations, so, you know, it’s not that at two you automatically move on to the preoperational stage.

    01:54 These are just sort of guesstimates of roughly when these transitions happen.

    01:59 So, the sensorimotor stage is when infants utilize their senses and movement to experience the world.

    02:04 So basically, they’re engaging with the world.

    02:07 So we say sensorimotor because they’re using their senses and motor function to respond to the environment around them.

    02:13 This is also when they determine - they generate something called object permanence.

    02:17 So this is the understanding that objects continue to exist when they’re out of sight.

    02:21 So as a child, the child believes that whatever is in their immediate view is happening live, happening now, and when they turn away, they believe that that event of that object has stopped existing.

    02:33 As you get a little bit older, we realize that if you have a ball or a toy and you put it away and you leave and go to bed or you leave your house, you come back, that toy will be there.

    02:42 So this is a kind of it sounds pretty obvious to us now, but that’s kind of a big deal.

    02:48 They also demonstrate stranger anxiety.

    02:50 So when you see somebody that’s new, they realize that this is different and they haven’t seen this individual, this object, this person before, and they demonstrate some anxiety around them.

    03:01 In the preoperational stage, children learn that the object can be represented through words and images, so now, they’re making that association.

    03:07 So, that’s kind of cool.

    03:09 So, they’re able to say, you know, “baba” which means bottle to them.

    03:13 And they’re able to look at words and associate “mama,” “dada,” and all these different things.

    03:18 So, now we see the development of learning and language.

    03:21 These are all huge sort of cognitive checkmarks, but they lack logical reasoning and they do not understand that others have different perspectives because everything revolves around them, they’re quite egocentric.

    03:32 And so if you try and, you know, dissuade a baby to do something or a child, they usually get quite upset because of the egocentricity that they have.

    03:40 They also don’t understand logic when you’re trying to negotiate with a child.

    03:44 That doesn’t always go over so well.

    03:48 Next is the concrete operational stage.

    03:51 So here, children learn to think logically about concrete events.

    03:54 So things that seem quite obvious and clear, they start to realize that there is actually some potentially wiggle room and that you start to generate and see that there are kind of laws.

    04:03 So they learn the principle of conservation and this is when they realize that the quantity remains the same despite change in shape.

    04:10 So you can see here on the image we have A and B.

    04:13 At the top, this is a cylinder that is half filled with water or a solution, a delicious green liquid.

    04:20 And you can see that it's consistent in both A and B.

    04:22 Now if you are to take the solution that is in B and you put it into a wide-bottom flask, it’s actually the same volume, but it looks slightly different and it’s in a different horizontally laid out wide flask container.

    04:37 So the child will actually understand that this is the same quantity of volume presented differently.

    04:44 So there’s an understanding of mathematical concepts, the concept of volume, the concept perhaps of the shape of the container that it’s in.

    04:54 Now we get to the formal operational stage and this is when they learn abstract reasoning or hypothesizing and moral reasoning.

    04:59 So what’s right or what’s wrong, and they learn how to think through things in their mind.

    05:05 So, again, you got to remember we’re relating all this to cognition, so how do we think about things.

    05:09 This is the stage now they’re starting to reason and this is really, really important.

    05:13 So we’re going to summarize some of these things.

    05:15 We have the sensorimotor stage, the child begins to interact with the environment.

    05:18 Preoperational stage, the child begins to represent the world symbolically.

    05:22 Concrete operational stage, the child learns rules such as conservation and the transferring of volume.

    05:27 And the formal operational stage, where the adolescent can transcend the concrete situation and think about the future, and think of more - think of things that are less absolute.

    05:38 Now, how does culture influence our thinking? So we know for a fact quite clearly in all of the lectures, culture keeps coming up because we know that it plays such a huge role in personality, in behavior, in cognition.

    05:52 So the individual learns social relationships and culture and converts these into mental capabilities.

    05:57 So if your culture is telling you this is how you need to act and this is how you interact with others, this is how you should be behaving, you actually learn the mental capabilities to be able to perform those functions adequately.

    06:09 So now we’re starting to get a relationship between language and expression of thought.

    06:13 This is also a huge deal.

    06:15 And so there’s culturally specific language and therefore, if you need to express yourself, you need to be able to understand your language and you need to make that relationship between language, cognition, and then expression of thought.

    06:28 Internalized speech is only developed after the child speaks out loud and receives feedback.

    06:32 So in the earlier stages of childhood, children tend to make sounds and they have this self-talk we call it, where they just -- they what seems like speaking gibberish and say words while they’re playing.

    06:44 That internal speech starts to come out.

    06:47 And when they start saying certain words, and we’ve eluded this before, you know, your baby or a child is sitting there and then starts speaking for the first time and says a word.

    06:55 If it’s a word that you know, you become extremely happy and they get that positive feedback.

    07:01 So when they say “dada” for the first time, you lose it.

    07:04 You’re like, “Oh my God! My baby said dada. My baby loves me and understands. So smart, genius baby!” And the baby sees this excitement as opposed to when the baby is talking gibberish like blah, blah, blah.

    07:15 The parent just looks at and going when is my child going to learn to speak? And as soon as they hear an actual word, it’s a full freak out.

    07:22 And so that positive feedback allows the child to learn and start making that association.

    07:27 So cognitively, it’s making that association between positive feedback, content, and the words that they’re saying.

    07:34 So different languages result in different ways of thinking, and this further supports our previous point in that the culture and language is going to influence expression of thought.

    07:44 So if your culture has a different way of thinking that’s going to impact the way you process information, it’s going to also impact the way you think.

    07:55 Multilingual people, these people who speak more than one language, perform differently on personality tests based on language.

    08:00 This is really interesting.

    08:02 So if you have somebody who speaks two or three or four languages when you’re speaking to them in English for example, they would perform differently on a test versus if you ask them to do the exact same test in German or ask them to do the same test in Mandarin, in French, and you’ll get different personality profiles based on language.

    08:25 Now, let’s take a look at genetics.

    08:28 So we know that both heredity and environmental factors can interact to shape cognitive development and function.

    08:34 So, in English, we break those two components apart.

    08:39 The way your parents think and have raised you are some of the environmental factors.

    08:44 But then, they’ve also passed on their genetic information.

    08:47 So, cognitively speaking, how you develop is shaped by a combination of those two things.

    08:53 So some of it is outside of your control, the genes that you’re given are the genes that you’re given.

    08:57 The environmental factor, while you’re subjected to the schools that you go to, the things that your parents show you, these will influence then your cognitive development based on that.

    09:07 So the genetics provides the biological predispositions or the raw skills.

    09:11 And then the environmental factors will bring you the sociocultural drivers that will shape and develop your capabilities in terms of cognition.

    09:21 So the problem is neither factor alone can explain and determine your level of cognitive development.

    09:27 So it’s not that if you have great genetics, you’re guaranteed to be a great thinker and have good cognitive abilities.

    09:33 And if you’re in a great sociocultural stand or status that also doesn’t mean that it’s going to explain everything.

    09:40 So it’s a combination of those two factors and then some.

    09:45 So some of the biological factors that can affect your cognition are directly influenced and mediated by structures in the brain.

    09:52 And so in some of the other modules that we’ve talked about, we’ve linked function to brain structure, and cognition is no different.

    09:59 So environmental stimuli, so the sensory information that’s coming in, is sent to specific lobes.

    10:05 The three lobes of interest that we’re going to talk about here are the parietal, occipital, and temporal lobes.

    10:10 Now, the sensory information forms the basis for cognitive processes.

    10:14 So what we’re saying is that info is going to come in and it needs to be processed.

    10:18 And so it’s really, really important that we have associated areas in the brain and we have the ability to process that sensory information.

    10:26 Now the frontal lobe manages executive functions, so it’s the quarterback.

    10:29 And it deals with planning, organizing, inhibiting impulses, and flexible thinking.

    10:34 So it’s the conductor of the orchestra and it allows us to piece together all these different sensory information, and it also allows us to determine how we’re going to react to that information.

    10:46 Memory formation and retrieval is mediated by the hippocampus.

    10:48 So we’ve mentioned that before, as well.

    10:50 So the structure is where memories are stored.

    10:53 It’s where memories are retrieved from.

    10:56 So a very, very important place, and so it obviously has a huge role in cognition because a lot of what we do is based on episodic or things that have happened to us, events that have happened to us in the past.

    11:09 The amygdala brings some emotion to it and so does the limbic system.

    11:13 If you remember the limbic system is what contains the reward pathway, a lot of dopamine projections and dopamine activity.

    11:20 So emotion, reward, these are going to have a huge role in cognition as well.

    11:25 Interaction and function of these brain sites underlies individual cognitive skills.

    11:30 So if you layer this biological aspect along with the other aspects that we’ve mentioned, that gives you a more complete understanding of how we’re actual to ably develop our cognitive skills.

    About the Lecture

    The lecture Cognitive Development and Biological Factors – Cognition (PSY) by Tarry Ahuja, PhD is from the course Making Sense of the Environment.

    Included Quiz Questions

    1. 3 years old
    2. 3 months old
    3. 1 year old
    4. 18 months old
    5. 6 months old
    1. Being helped by the phonological loop and the visuospatial sketchpad
    2. Being called schemas
    3. Being assimilated or accommodated
    4. Being involved in cognitive development
    5. Being formed in childhood and being able to shape the frameworks of adults
    1. Frontal lobe
    2. Temporal lobe
    3. Amygdala
    4. Limbic system
    5. Parietal lobe
    1. Hippocampus
    2. Frontal lobe
    3. Medulla
    4. Thalamus
    5. Pituitary gland
    1. Preoperational stage
    2. Sensorimotor stage
    3. Concrete operational stage
    4. Formal operational stage
    5. Conservational stage

    Author of lecture Cognitive Development and Biological Factors – Cognition (PSY)

     Tarry Ahuja, PhD

    Tarry Ahuja, PhD

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