Developmental psychology 2

[5 abstracts]

1. Empirical paradigms in developmental psycholinguistics  [presentation, ppt, 377 kB]
Schnell Z.
University of Pécs, Institute of Psychology, Pécs, Hungary

The presentation intends to give an overview of the observational and experimental methods in today’s psycholinguistics, regarding language acquisition as a life-long experience from fetus to adolescent and even beyond. It also offers an informative guide to the history and evolution of empirical, applied psycholinguistic techniques, aiming to describe background mechanisms of language processing, perception, production, and acquisition, giving us an insight into fetal sensitivity to speech input, and to the intricacies of language processing both in the preverbal and in the verbal stages (Karmiloff & Karmiloff-Smith, 2002). The new paradigms introduced by the cognitive turn of the 1960’s affected research in the study of language and the mind, bringing on a revolutionary change in experimental techniques, due to which the focus of attention shifted from production to comprehension. The emerging innovative research methods allow us to investigate the multi-level process of language use and acquisition from new perspectives, and examine the development which begins during intrauterine life (Gleason & Ratner, 1998). The new findings also contribute to the resolution of long-standing debates in the discipline, such as the primacy of nature vs. nurture, or that of blind imitation vs. rule application. In the preverbal period children actively communicate through proto-communicative acts and through different actions (e.g. joint attention, following adults’ gaze) (Tomasello, 2002), which serve as important instances of active participation in social settings. Through such interpersonal interactions children begin their journey of socialization, in which language plays a crucial, if not the most important role. The mapping of the intricacies of the experimental paradigms prevalent in today’s psycholinguistic research, and the understanding of the underlying mechanisms that fuel language acquisition may shed light on the cognitive strategies that are responsible for the construction, comprehension and production of language at all stages of our ontogenetic development

2. The cognitive developmental investigation of the attribution of privileged access to mental states  [presentation, ppt, 76 kB]
Kiss S.
University of Pécs, Institute of Psychology, Pécs, Hungary

Research on mindreading is one of the central topics of present-day cognitive science. Within this research, children’s thinking about the mind is especially important. The present paper will be about the relationship of the so-called ideal speech situation developed by Habermas and the child’s theory of mind. First, the ideal speech situation will be analyzed, showing the importance of the ascription of privileged access to mental states. Then, the history of first person authority within general psychology, social psychology and cognitive developmental psychology will be presented. One of the conclusions of this historical presentation is that within adult folk psychology we often ascribe privileged access to intentional states when we interpret other people’s behavior. The paper will show how we operationalized the ideal speech situation of the universal pragmatics of Habermas. In a word, we naturalize this philosophical concept. The notion of the ideal speech situation will be investigated from the point of view of contemporary empirical theory-of-mind research. Then I raise two questions: When and how does the child acquire the notion of the ideal speech situation? I will show a cognitive developmental experiment which aimed to answer the above questions. During the experiment we used a modified version of the classic theory-of-mind task developed by Bartsch and Wellman. In this task, the child has to infer the mental states from the action of a protagonist. Then we tested whether the child could select the main character on the basis of his first person verbal report. We argued that if the child was able to do this then he attributed first person authority to the character. Finally, the task analysis of our experiment will be presented. It is suggested that the acquisition of the ideal speech situation is related to the imaginative abilities of children, particularly to his or her capability to participate in imaginative conversations

3. Storytelling in early childhood: Do the preschool and family environment matter?  
Marjanovič Umek L., Fekonja Peklaj U.
First author's affiliation: Faculty of Arts, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Storytelling is one of child’s pragmatic competences which is based on the expression of decontextualized contents and develops rapidly in the early childhood. The development of storytelling is affected by different factors in child’s environment, such as symbolic play or joint reading. The aim of the present study was to examine whether the child’s enrollment into a preschool institution, maternal education and the quality of home literacy environment represent important factors of child’s storytelling. The sample included 229 children, aged approximately 6 years, who at the time of the assessment, visited 1st grade of primary school. Children differed in the years they have spent in preschool prior to the primary school enrollment (children visiting preschool for 5 or 3 years and children not enrolled into preschool) and their mother’s educational level. Stories, spontaneously told by children while looking at the pictures, were analyzed with respect to the level of their coherence and cohesion using the criteria designed and established in some of our previous studies. The quality of home environment was assessed using the Home Literacy Environment Questionnaire (Marjanovič Umek, Podlesek, & Fekonja, 2005). The findings suggest that child’s enrollment into preschool, especially at the age of three, has a significant effect on his/her storytelling competence. Six years old children who entered preschool at the age of three told more coherent and cohesive stories than their peers who were not enrolled into preschool prior to entering primary school. The positive effect of preschool on child’s storytelling was evident in the group of children whose mothers had a high level of education. Maternal education proved to have a positive effect on the developmental level of child’s storytelling as well as correlated with the quality of child’s home environment related to mother’s correct use of language.

4. Evaluating the socio-emotional and communicative development in day-care: Observational tools for nurses and parents  
Ongari B., Francesca T.
First author's affiliation: Department of Human and Social Sciences, University of Trento, Trento, Italy

This contribution focuses on a research project whose aim was to evaluate a battery of tools which allows caregivers (parents and nurses) to monitor the emotional wellbeing and the first emergence of the socio-communicative abilities of each child within the peer group at the day-care center. Using individualized observations our objective was to analyze the quality of the children’s socio-emotional adaptation to the educational context, particularly focusing on a) the quality of play and social interaction, b) the differences related to the temperament, c) the degree of the communicative competence. In order to obtain reliable individual profiles, the effects of variables such as age, sex, amount of time attending the day-care were controlled, as well as the concurrent validity of each tool. Nurses observed 265 children (22-38 months old) attending day-care centers using the Socio-Affective Profile (PSA, Dumas, La Frenière, Capuano, & Durning, 1997). A half of the sample was then submitted to other tools. Six specific episodes of the daily life for each child have been video-registered by the nurses and coded with a specific system for evaluating the Social Interactions (ISN, Ongari, Tomasi, & Zoccatelli, 2004) derived from the Play Observation Scale (Rubin, 1976).The mother and the nurse fulfilled the Italian Questionnaire on Temperament (QUIT, Axia, 2002), which assesses the usual behavior of the child in the relationship with others, during play and coping with unexpected things. Moreover, the connection between the quality of the affective-emotional adaptation and the socio-communication competence has been checked with a questionnaire (QCSP, Molina, Bulgarelli, Marsan, Spinelli, & Miceli, 2002). At last, a questionnaire which analyzes the representations of each caregiver with respect to her own effective interaction with the child and her image of her own caring role has been purposed to the mothers and to the nurses (QZ; Zaouche-Gaudron; Ricaud-Droisy, & Beaumatin, 2002).

5. Croatian version of Selection, optimization and compensation questionnaire, and its demographic correlates  
Brković I.
Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Zagreb, Croatia

Theoretical framework of SOC model (Baltes et al., 1997; 1999; 2002) is developed to gain a better understanding of the factors contributing to a successful development. It attempts to specify the self-regulation strategies people use to master their lives. The aim of research presented here was twofold: to develop Croatian version of SOC questionnaire and check its psychometric properties and to examine demographic correlates of SOC scores. The sample consisted of 335 adults (202 women and 133 men). The questionnaire consisted of 49 dichotomous items measuring 4 dimensions hypothesized by the model (Elective Selection, Loss-Based Selection, Optimization and Compensation). Analyses revealed that the subscales reached psychometric properties similar to those of the original version of the questionnaire (Cronbach alpha’s ranging from 0,50 to 0,70) with low to moderate intercorrelations. Considering the length of the questionnaire suggestions for its shortening are discussed, showing that short versions keep good or gain improved psychometric properties. More educated participants, both women and men, showed higher results on Loss-based selection scale. Men reached higher scores than women on Elective selection. Age differences varied depending on subscale and gender. Correlations between spouses were found low but significant for Loss-based selection and Compensation subscales.