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 Obstructing the ‘inner eye’
07.07.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

nachricht Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington

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: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ultrathin device harvests electricity from human motion

24.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Scientists announce the quest for high-index materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

ADIR Project: Lasers Recover Valuable Materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>