Mastery Motivation in Early Childhood: Development, Measurement, and Social Processes

By David Messer | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

Mastery, attention, IQ and parent-infant social interaction

David J. Messer

In this chapter, two arguments are developed. One is that mastery motivation can be considered as part of the attentional system of infants. The other is that social interaction influences the development of both mastery and related attentional processes. In putting forward these arguments, emphasis is given to the way that attentional, cognitive and social behaviours fit together.

The model given in Figure 2.1 provides a framework for the structure of the review. A brief outline is now given to signpost the way through a more detailed examination of the evidence. At birth there appear to be congenital differences between infants in their ability to process information. During the first three months these early processing abilities appear unstable, and may be influenced by the characteristics of mother-infant interaction. From about 4 months, measures of mastery, habituation and novelty preference show stability and reliably predict later IQ. As infants reach 4-5 months of age, they become increasingly interested in objects rather than the body and interactive games of the first few months. The parents’ ability to sustain their infants’ interest in objects becomes a feature of social interaction, and this characteristic predicts later vocabulary achievement. Similarly, in the second year, maternal labelling which follows infant interest appears to contribute to vocabulary growth.

The chapter is divided into two sections: the first concerns the prediction of children’s ability from attentional processes in infancy (mastery motivation, habituation and novelty preference) and the second concerns the influence of social interaction on these attentional processes.


ATTENTION AND THE PREDICTION OF LATER ABILITY

This section starts with a review of longitudinal studies which have found a relationship between mastery motivation in the first year and later ability. This is followed by a review of similar material for habituation and novelty preference. Lastly, the relationship between mastery and

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