Young Children's Cognitive Development: Interrelationships among Executive Functioning, Working Memory, Verbal Ability, and Theory of Mind

Young Children's Cognitive Development: Interrelationships among Executive Functioning, Working Memory, Verbal Ability, and Theory of Mind

Young Children's Cognitive Development: Interrelationships among Executive Functioning, Working Memory, Verbal Ability, and Theory of Mind

Young Children's Cognitive Development: Interrelationships among Executive Functioning, Working Memory, Verbal Ability, and Theory of Mind

Synopsis

A critical part of early childhood development is the development of "theory of mind" (ToM), which is the ability to take the perspective of another person. The main purpose of this book is to discuss and integrate findings from prominent research areas in developmental psychology that are typically studied in isolation, but are clearly related. Two examples are whether executive functions represent a precursor of ToM or whether ToM understanding predicts the development of executive functions, and to what extent children's level of verbal ability and their working memory are important predictors of performance on both executive functioning and ToM tasks. The chapters in this book give a detailed account of the major outcomes of this research. First, the state of the art concerning current understanding of the relevant constructs (working memory, ToM, executive functioning) and their developmental changes is presented, followed by chapters that deal with interactions among the core concepts. Its main focus is on theoretically important relationships among determinants of young children's cognitive development--considered to be "hot" issues in contemporary developmental psychology. Based on presentations made at an international workshop, this book is divided into two parts. In the first part, five teams of researchers present theoretical analyses and overviews of empirical evidence regarding the core constructs of memory, executive functions, and ToM. The next part deals with the interplay among the core concepts outlined in Part I with developmental trends in the interaction.

Excerpt

The study of cognitive development has undergone considerable changes during the last three decades. in the 1970s, the field was dominated by information processing views that assumed parallel and closely interrelated developmental changes in different cognitive domains, thus emphasizing a domain-general perspective of cognitive development. This perspective changed during the course of the 1980s and 1990s as the importance of domain-specific processes was confirmed in numerous studies, reflected in different developmental patterns in foundational domains (Wellman & Gelman, 1998). Research on Children's developing understanding of the mental domain has become paradigmatic for the domain-specific approach to cognitive development. Although initially the primary focus of theory of mind research was on Children's acquisition of core conceptual distinctions (e.g., between belief and reality), the developmental relations between conceptual development and other cognitive functions have attracted considerable research interest in recent years. Interrelations among theory of mind or metacognitive knowledge, working memory, language acquisition, and executive functions have been studied empirically. Several theoretical proposals have been made to account for the observed associations. However, there is still little exchange between researchers working in the memory and information processing traditions and researchers working in conceptual development.

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