NEURAL MECHANISMS IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF MATHEMATICAL COMPETENCIES
Chair: Elsbeth Stern, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
The development of mathematical competencies, as one of the key aims of institutional learning, has been in the center of behavioral research for several decades. This research has revealed important insights into how basic numerical competencies are acquired, which cognitive processes are involved in mathematical tasks, and how these processes change over development. Mathematical competencies are most interesting for researching cognitive development because of the unique interaction between biological preconditions and cultural progress. It is without question that human brains have been endowed with universal core knowledge about numerical patterns through evolution. On the other hand, the fields of academic mathematics, which is entirely based on symbolic relationships, has mainly emerged during the past centuries, and human beings within the same cultural environment show considerable achievement differences. Building upon the findings from behavioral research, neuroimaging and neurophysiological studies have recently begun to characterize the brain correlates of these processes and their developmental trajectories. The aim of this symposium is to present current neuroscientific studies from this research line and to discuss their potential to provide incremental insights into the mechanisms underlying the development of mathematical competencies. In the first contribution, evidence from behavioral and neuroimaging studies on the development of numerical magnitude processing and their role for mathematical achievement is presented. The second presentation illustrates how event-related potential (ERP) data can be used to disentangle basic number processes and shows how the access to magnitude information from number symbols develops from Grade 1 to adulthood. In the third contribution, a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study is presented which reveals how brain activation patterns during mental arithmetic differ between children and adults and that the activity in the right parietal cortex is related to individual differences in children’s arithmetical fluency. The fourth presentation focuses on mathematical competence in adults and provides evidence from fMRI that more and less competent individuals differentially engage a region in the left temporo-parietal cortex which may be indicative of their proficiency in mathematical symbol processing. In the subsequent discussion, the presented research findings will be critically evaluated with respect to the potential and limitations of neuroscientific methods to contribute to a better understanding of cognitive development in general.
PREFERENCE FOR ACTION GOALS THROUGHOUT DEVELOPMENT: UBIQUITOUS PHENOMENON?
Chairs: Ivanina Henrichs, University of Potsdam, Germany, Birgit Elsner, University of Potsdam, Germany & Moritz M. Daum, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Germany
Discussant: Birgit Elsner, University of Potsdam, Germany
Goal attribution plays a crucial role in infants’ understanding of actions. During the first year of life, infants learn to represent actions in terms of goals. However, in the majority of looking time studies, infants were predominantly guided to attend to the end state of an action and less to other aspects of the action. This symposium combines four talks and an integrative discussion on the processes underlying the encoding of goal-directed actions throughout development using different measures. The first paper addresses the importance of cue salience for infants’ encoding of action components applying a looking time procedure. When the agent’s trajectory is highly salient, 9- and 12-month-olds show preference for the agent’s path and not for its goal. The second paper focuses on children’s ability to anticipate the different goals of two agents. The results suggest that even if the salience of the location of a goal is reduced, 12- and 24-month-olds are not able to anticipate the agents’ goal, while 36-month-olds and adults do so. The third paper presents data on the impact of the efficiency of an action on infants’ anticipation of the goal. While 9-month-olds anticipated the goal of both efficient and non-efficient actions, 12-month-olds anticipated the goal faster when the action was efficient. The last paper addresses the gaze performance of 3.5-year-olds and adults observing a point-light display of a manual reaching action towards a goal. While biological motion information was sufficient for action anticipation in adults, 3.5-year-olds showed longer gaze latencies in comparison to adults, indicating that children might need some additional action-related information. In sum, the four papers of the present symposium point out the importance of considering the multifaceted details of the complex structure of goal-directed actions in terms of, for example, cue salience. Additionally, the contributions emphasize the fact that different measures are inevitable to provide converging evidence for how infants and young children represent and understand others’ actions.
WHERE DEVELOPMENTAL PROGRAMMING STARTS: EVIDENCE FROM FETUS, INFANT AND CHILD BRAIN BEHAVIOUR STUDIES
Chair: Bea Van den Bergh, Tilburg University, The Netherlands
The developmental programming hypothesis studies the short and long-term consequences of the conditions of the developmental environment for phenotypic variations in typical and atypical development, and for health and disease. Central to this hypothesis are the idea of interdependence of developmental influences, genes, and environment and the concept of vulnerability. The main aims of this symposium are: (1) to give a conceptual framework of developmental programming; (2) to show the effects of malnutrition and stress hormone exposure on fetal brain and behaviour in utero; (3) to illustrate developmental programming effects having their origins in the prenatal life period on offspring’s cognitive development, behavioural problems and stress reactivity in infancy and childhood, (4) to discuss some of the public health implications in terms of improvement of outcome for children. All studies presented use a prospective longitudinal design. The first presenter, Bea Van den Bergh, brings a conceptual framework for developmental programming of cognitive and social-emotional development and stress reactivity. The presentation includes empirical data showing infant HPA-axis programming by maternal cortisol during pregnancy. In the study of the second presenter, Brian Francis, it is examined, with 4-D fetal ultrasound scans, whether or not there is evidence that fetal facial movement becomes more complex over time, and also whether the individual muscular movements coalesce into ”gestalts” or particular facial expressions such as cry-face or smile-face. The study of the third presenter, Barbara Kisilevsky, examines the effects of placental insufficiency on fetal and infant auditory processing using a voice preference and habituation paradigm, and language learning at 14 month of age. The fourth talk, presented by Eva Loomans, examines five year old children from the Amsterdam Born Children and their Development (ABCD)-study and shows that high prenatal maternal anxiety is related to cognitive control, measured with neurocognitive tasks and behavioural problems, measured with maternal report questionnaires. In the fifth talk, presented by Matthias Schwab, the acute effects of prenatal malnutrition, stress and glucocorticoid treatment on fetal brain function and development are demonstrated and the long-term consequences on neuropsychological development and stress reactivity of children at school age are shown. Collectively, these papers highlight the complex ways in which developmental programming influences neurodevelopment, having lasting effects.
EVIDENCE-BASED INTERVENTIONS TO PROMOTE POSITIVE PARENTING: MAJOR OUTCOMES FROM THE TENERIFE WINTER SCHOOL
Chair: Maria José Rodrigo, University of La Laguna, Spain
The main goal of the symposium is to present some major outcomes from the Tenerife Winter School on “Evidence-based Parent Education Programs and Best Practices to Promote Positive Parenting” (10-14 January, 2011). The winter school was organized under the auspicious of the ESDP and the Jacobs Foundation and the patrociny of the Council of Europe. The idea was to bring together senior researchers, practitioners and policy makers to discuss with a selected group of doctoral and post doctoral students from several countries theoretical and methodological aspects of studies on family educational programs to support positive parenting. The presentations in the symposium addresses four important topics: a) the importance of conducting evidence-based interventions to evaluate the impact of the programs; b) how to carry out proper implementations in real-world settings; c) the use of a national-scale evaluation of parenting programs to inspire the family policies and research; and d) issues connecting relevant research to good practices as well as to adequate policy measures. Some parenting programs targeted to parents in the transition of parenthood and parents living under psychosocial risk conditions are presented to illustrate some of the topics. Some final conclusions drawn from the presentations and from the winter school are also presented. Participants in the symposium are: Katariina Salmelo-Aro (University of Helsinki), Barbara Reichle (University of Ludwigsburg), Ana Almeida (University of Minho), Christiane Spiel (University of Vienna) and María José Rodrigo (University of La Laguna).
EMOTIONS AT SCHOOL
Chairs: Frédérique Cuisiner, University of Paris Ouest, France & Jacques Gregoire, Catholic Univerisity of Louvain, France
Discussant: Francisco Pons, University of Oslo, Norway
This symposium articulates several contributions centered on emotions and their link with cognition and school activities. Elise Tornare and Frederique Cuisinier examined the impact of pupils’ emotion during school activities varying in terms of complexity. The effects of the induced mood and of the emotions aroused by the tasks are related to several individual factors and to the pupil-teacher relationship. Among these factors, academic skills and interest and academic emotion regulation seem to be especially significant. Elian Fink and Marc de Rosnay examined the links between attentional regulation, affective responses and social competences in a developmental perspective. That question is highly relevant for understanding the development of academic competences. Indeed, academic achievement depends on cognitive abilities but also on behavior regulation, especially the regulation of attention. Veronique Leroy and Jacques Grégoire addressed a related question in their research about cognitive reappraisal in academic context. They examined how student can resist to distractive temptation which could interfere with their current activity. The contribution of emotional competences is enlightened by the research of Sophie Brasseur and Catherine Cuche. These authors showed that emotional competences help students with learning difficulties to cope with school demands. The same pattern was found with gifted students. All these contributions converge to highlight the importance of emotional development for academic learning. They also point, for researchers working on emotion-cognition interactions, that to focus on school activities and to articulate the pupils’ point of view on school context and on themselves as learners is of major interest.
ROLE OF PERSONALITY IN ADAPTATION IN ADOLESCENCE AND ADULTHOOD
Chair: Jens Asendorpf, HU Berlin, Germany
This symposium addresses the role of personality differences in developmental processes in adaptation between adolescence and young adulthood. All contributions present longitudinal data predicting adaptation (educational, work or relational achievement or self-esteem) from personality (including vulnerability to school burnout), using multiple measurement points for adaptation and sophisticated designs such as mediation in multi-level data or cross-lagged analyses. Thereby they contribute to a better understanding of the role of personality differences in adaptation processes, including feedback effects from adaptation to personality. Denissen et al. predict in a German longitudinal study school, work and relational adjustment between ages 17 and 29 from personality and relationship resources at age 12. Motti-Stefanidi & Asendorpf predict in a Greek longitudinal multi-level study self-efficacy, self-esteem and psychological symptoms in immigrant and native adolescents in school classes with a high proportion of immigrants, showing that personality mediates the predictive relations from social adversity to adaptation. Salmela-Aro et al. analyze in a Finnish longitudinal study cross-lagged relations between school burnout and self-esteem in adolescents, and Klimstra et al. analyze in a Dutch longitudinal study cross-lagged relations between personality and relational and identity formation in college students. All contributions consistently show the powerful role of personality and personal resources in shaping developmental processes in adaptation.
GENETICS, PERSONALITY AND RESILIENCE IN A LONGITUDINAL PERSPECTIVE BASED ON A LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF ADULT TWINS
Chairs: Svenn Torgersen, RBUP Eastern and Southern Norway & Trine Waaktaar, RBUP Eastern and Southern Norway
Discussants: Trine Waaktaar, RBUP Eastern and Southern Norway & Svenn Torgersen, RBUP Eastern and Southern Norway
The symposium presents a longitudinal study of resilience in adolescent in Norway. In order to figure out the relative contribution of genetic and environmental factors in the development of resilience, a twin design is applied. The background for the project, the design, and some of the preliminary results will be presented in the symposium.
INNOVATIVE METHODS FOR THE STUDY OF CHANGE AND DEVELOPMENT
Chair: Matthias Reitzle, Fredrich Schiller University of Jena, Germany
The general aim of this symposium is to disseminate some innovative ideas of modelling change and development and a new perspective on hypothesis testing to a larger audience of developmental researchers. This endeavour may help developmentalists to overcome the boundaries of traditional, but partly inappropriate, methods to analyze intra-individual change and inter-individual differences herein. Particularly, the intra-individual perspective has been neglected over decades by prematurely aggregating data across samples before turning to the analysis of change. In this vein, Molenaar challenges our widespread conviction that findings from analyses which are based on inter-individual variation reflect what happens within the individual across time. This seminal opening is followed by Mayer’s presenting an advanced method to account for individuals’ latent growth or change components on multiple dimensions. Bergman’s presentation gives an illustrative example that the core of development is not individuals’ changing scores on particular dimensions, but that development is more likely to consist of individuals’ changing configurations or patterns of scores across time. With regard to a more general concern in developmental research, van de Schoot introduces an innovative way to conceptualize and apply hypothesis testing in the domain of change and development exemplified by a study on adolescent identity formation.
SOCIAL COGNITION IN TYPICAL AND NON-TYPICAL DEVELOPMENT
Chairs: Ottavia Albanese, University of Milano, Italy & Paola Molina, University of Turin, Italy
Cognitive, social and developmental literature offers many different definitions of social cognition. According to Fiske, we consider social cognition as “… the study of how people make sense of other people and themselves. It focuses on how ordinary people think and feel about people – and how they think they think and feel about people” (Fiske & Shelley, 2008, p. 1). Social cognition is therefore an important aspect of social behaviour, and its development is a fundamental competence for child integration into the social world. In our symposium we will consider two areas of this development, namely the emotion and the mental states understanding. These areas are crucial both in typical and atypical development, and specific deficit in these areas is proposed as a core deficit particularly in autism. Our symposium aims at presenting research results from different countries focused on (a) development of child competence in these two areas (emotion and mental states understanding: Blijd- Hoogewys et al); (b) links between these competences, and between social cognition and social competences in children (De Rosnay & Fink, De Stasio et al.); and (c) different paths of development in typical and atypical (autism) development (Thommen et al.; Farina et al.). Moreover, we will discuss the validity of two new instruments of evaluation (the TEC and the ToM Storybooks), comparing results across age, typical/atypical development and countries. Altogether, our papers will allow a deeper understanding of social cognition development, they will discuss some new tools of evaluation and they will underline some problems and future research topics concerning the link between social cognition and social competences, a new research field particularly interesting from both theoretical and educational point of view.
WHY DO YOUNG CHILDREN TRUST SOME PEOPLE MORE THAN OTHERS?
Chair: Paul Harris, Harvard University, USA
The papers in this symposium demonstrate that preschool children are not indiscriminate when they face conflicting claims. Even 2-year-olds invest more trust in the information supplied by one informant to that of another. The papers also probe, however, the extent to which, children make that choice among informants differently in the course of the preschool years. Clement and Terrier offer persuasive evidence for the early use of a relatively non-epistemic and somewhat egocentric heuristic. Two-and 3-year-olds prefer the information supplied by someone like them – at least in terms of age. Nevertheless, Koenig underlines the claim that in some circumstances even toddlers attend to speaker reliability. They regard inaccuracy as a characteristic of a particular individual and the word-object representations that they form on the basis of what that person says are not robust. Einav argues for a developmental shift toward a more epistemic assessment of informants. By around 4 years, children monitor how a person’s accuracy was achieved. If it was only achieved with help from someone else, children invest less trust in that person as an informant, preferring someone who is more independently knowledgeable. In the discussion, the tensions and continuities among the three papers will be highlighted. In particular, we may ask if development simply leads to a different weighting of essentially the same portfolio of heuristics or leads to the displacement of earlier ‘social’ heuristic by those that are more thoroughly epistemic.