Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Children show goal-oriented behavior by age 3

21.02.2008
Study shows when kids' actions reflect their awareness that some outcomes are worth chasing more than others

Hang on, parents. After the terrible twos come the goal-oriented threes. Kids seem to grow into the ability to act in pursuit of goals outside of what they can immediately sense sometime around that age, according to a new study published in the February issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Researchers found that by around age 3, children appear to shape their behavior in response to the outcomes they’ve come to expect. Anticipated outcomes that they value move them to act more than do outcomes that they don’t – a hallmark of emerging autonomy.

At the University of Cambridge, a trio of psychologists trained 72 children between 18 months and 4 years old, divided into three 10-month age bands (averaging 1.3 to 2.2 years, 2.3 to 3.075 years, and 3.08 to 4 years) to touch a red or green butterfly icon on a touch-screen display to see different cartoon video clips. The children came to associate one butterfly with one cartoon sequence and the other butterfly with another.

After that, the experimenters devalued one of the outcomes by showing that sequence repeatedly, until the children became bored with it. Thus, the less-viewed cartoon clips became, by contrast, more interesting and valuable. The researchers then re-tested the children, who should now have associated one butterfly with a valued cartoon and the other butterfly with a less-valued cartoon.

Relative to the younger children, those who were 32 months (nearly 3 years) and older touched the butterfly for the less-valued cartoon significantly less often than they touched the butterfly for the more novel cartoon. During that test, the cartoons were not actually presented; the children had to rely on their memories of which butterfly icon produced which cartoon. This test thus showed that the actions of the older children behavior depended on the current values of the outcomes, whereas the actions of the younger children did not.

Co-author Ulrike Klossek, PhD, points out that although all the children were sensitive to changes in outcome value and preferred the less-repeated cartoon, only the older children actually acted in a way that, based on their experience, would get them their favorite cartoon.

The authors said that although adults take goal-directed action for granted, it’s not in us from birth but rather emerges in a normal developmental timeline that, according to this and similar studies, appears to emerge roughly between the ages of 2 and 3 years -- hence the “terrible twos.”

“One possible interpretation is that the period between 2 and 3 years of age brings about a transition in behavioral control from stimulus-outcome learning to fully intentional goal-directed action,” the authors wrote. In other words, by age 3, children can pursue specific goals even if they cannot directly sense those goals, which may now be more abstract. These older toddlers are sensitive to how goals change in value, begin to internalize their relationship to and control over events, and start to act in ways that will help them reach the goals they value most – such as more exciting cartoons.

It’s all a part of growing up. As the authors concluded, “This capacity [to internalize one’s control over the environment] is an important component of becoming a fully autonomous intentional agent.”

Pam Willenz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.apa.org
http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/xge137139.pdf

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft

nachricht Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

Im Focus: Silencing bacteria

HZI researchers pave the way for new agents that render hospital pathogens mute

Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Molecular Force Sensors

20.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Producing electricity during flight

20.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

20.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>