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!
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy