The purpose of the past three (or four if you count joint attention) blogs was to look into the earliest forms of social cognition to analyze the beginnings of some of the most studied topics in social cognition. Developmental social cognition is a field that is ever-growing and ever-changing. One of my favourite part of doing the research for the three blogs was reading papers from the 80s and 90s all the way to reading papers that had been published only days earlier. The leaps and bounds that have been made, and all the hours that have been put into this topic make it a subject I could have successfully spoken about for the entire duration of this course.
Early social cognition, joint attention, self-awareness, and the earliest development of language demonstrate many branches of the same tree that is social cognition of child development. It would have been interesting to study memory, children raised in bilingual homes, the early cognition of learned behaviour, and the early cognition of implicit cognition. If I was taking this course for another eight weeks, I would be able to expand my horizons on the topic of the child development of social cognition and be able to contribute some well thought out discussions to the class on how all the things that are discussed in class start from childbirth.
My entire takeaway of this topic can be summed up by a few words from a book written by John H. Flavell and Lee Ross called Social Cognitive Development: Frontiers and Possible Futures. Flavell and Ross propose that the study of social cognitive development has two approaches from which it can be studied. The knowledge from this novel can be used to read and analyze other papers on social cognitive development and define which of the methods the researcher took to format their paper.
Chapter Seven of the novel is titled Exploring Children’s Cognition on Two Fronts. On the first front, there is a kind of approach to observing social cognition in which most of the experiments and results are taken from experiments carried out in a lab-like setting. Studies such as the first language acquisition test in the previous blog, as well as most of the analysis preformed in the early cognition blog all stand to use this methodology of learning about developmental cognition. This form of analysis involves story telling, problem solving, interview questions, and other verbally administered tests. This approach to social cognition has become massively helpful when it comes to establishing age trends in social cognition development, and in children’s social understanding. Certain tests on self-awareness can be conducted in this way. Generally those following this approach have taken a stab at determining the major qualitative changes associated with age in children’s’ social understanding. (Flavell & Ross, 1981) Recall the experiment in which the researchers stuck an infant in a playpen with a mirror and a sticky note on their face. the researcher is trying to find the average age at which the infant is able to look at the reflection, touch the sticky note on their forehead, and realize that the baby touching the sticky note in the reflection and the child currently touching the sticky note are the same person.
The second kind of social cognitive study is radically different, and differs from traditional social cognitive lab research. This method of study focusses on cognition during actual social interaction, rather than subjects simply imagining real world examples of social cognition from the confines of a laboratory. This method is observational and more commonly naturalistic. From observations of children in natural or even semi-structured settings, the researcher draws inferences from the children’s social cognitive abilities without the exclusive aid of children’s’ responses to verbally administered tasks or to probing interview questions. Because of the age group I focussed on in my last three blogs (aged six months to eighteen months all the way to two years), the most efficient way to study social cognition was by these means. With the rise of “mommy and me” blogs popping up all over the internet, there is one thing upheld both by radical helicopter moms and developmental social cognition researchers: testing a child’s level of social cognition based on real life interaction with toys and games allows the child to have fun and the parent or doctor to track various abilities such as hand-eye coordination, joint attention, self-awareness, and even first language acquisition. (Flavell & Ross, 1981) Several experiments that I looked at in the past four blogs have been based on this form of social cognitive study. From the joint attention experiment in which the child followed the parent’s finger while looking at the pages of a book, to the experiment of deferred imitation from the early social cognition blog in which an infant mimics a parent picking up an object and setting it down in a certain way, to the last experiment in this nature of prosodic processing in which (I realize now that I didn’t include this study. I will link it below) in which researchers realized that music carried certain aspects of prosody, and by listening to special kinds of music, it could actually lead first language acquisition to be developed quicker, and with fewer mistakes. (Thomson, Schellenberg & Hussain, 2004)
While the purpose of this particular blog post is to provide a summary to the four previous blogs I have written, look at this blog as more of a launch pad. By understanding the two methods of developmental social cognition research, one could take any subject in developmental social cognition and parse the articles up based on what kind of paper one might want to write about. If writing about a child from infancy to mid toddler age, the second method of out of lab research might be the best method of research to go by. If looking into developmental social cognition of a child aged late toddler to early child, to adolescent and so on, the first method of research (survey, verbal reporting and self report) might be a better method of study.
I hope that this summary was useful and informative, and that you might be able to take this information with you when reading studies in any other area of developmental social cognition.
Flavell, J. H., Ross, L., & Social Science Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Social and Affective Development During Childhood. (1981). Social cognitive development: Frontiers and possible futures. Cambridge;New York;: Cambridge University Press.
Thompson, W. F., Schellenberg, E. G., & Husain, G. (2004). Decoding speech prosody: Do music lessons help? Emotion, 4(1)