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Social skills in young children

Please explain social cognition and describe some behaviors children may display from birth to 5. How do children differ in regard to social cognition and what are the implications for the educator?

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Social cognition refers to the science of studying and seeking to understand social behavior and learning. There are predictable steps that human beings progress through from birth to about age 5-6. It is important to understand that not all children progress at the same rate through these steps, and it is also important to understand that a child's culture (both within and without, or outside, of the family unit) can affect this development.

When I conducted a search on Google using the search phrase social cognition in young children, a good number of scholarly hits appeared among the thousands returned. Of the several likely-looking sites I skimmed, most used technical language or post-graduate language to discuss the concepts you are looking for. One site, though, aimed at the general public (not doctoral researchers!) had the information you are looking for in terms that were easy to read and understand. The author of the articles is a PhD herself. The site is located at URL: http://www.parentingscience.com/social-cognition.html. Be sure to cite this reference when you use material from this source, as I have done.

I have copied and pasted below the relevant portions of this site which are of interest to you below. The APA (6th edition) citation for this site is:

Dewar, G. (2006-2009). Social Cognition and people skills: A guide for the science-minded parent. Retrieved from http://www.parentingscience.com/social-cognition.html.
The social world of newborns: A guide for the science-minded parent
© 2009 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved

Yes, newborns spend most of their time sleeping and and eating. Taking care of a new baby can feel like a series of mechanical tasks.
But babies are much more than eating, sleeping, pooping machines.
At birth, they are primed and ready for social input.
Even if you are too tired too notice, your loving care has profound effects on your baby's developing mind.
Decades ago, this seemed doubtful. People assumed that newborn babies were empty-headed, passive lumps. Babies didn't really have minds-not yet-and they certainly didn't respond to social stimuli.
Today we know differently. It appears that babies are born with remarkable social capacities that help them
? identify voices and faces
? communicate, and
? develop an understanding of other minds
So neonates aren't blank slates, and the people who care for newborns are more than diaper-changers. Think of a newborn as a computer than comes preloaded with software designed to detect patterns in the social environment. This software helps guide newborn development.
Here are some examples of the social feats that vabies can perform within the first few days of life.

Newborns show a preference for "baby talk"
When adults talk to babies, they often adopt a special style of speaking-one that is slower, more melodic, and more repetitive. This "infant-directed speech" makes it easier for babies to understand your emotional intentions. It may also help them learn to speak.

Interestingly, babies seem to prefer this baby talk.In an experiment by Robin Cooper and Richard Aslin, 2-day old infants were presented with audio recordings of adult speech. In some trials, babies heard infant-directed speech. In other trials, they heard adult-directed speech.
The babies could control how long each playback lasted by turning their heads toward a loudspeaker. And-guess what-the newborns turned their heads longer when they heard infant-directed speech (Cooper and Aslin 1990).
Newborns recognize their mothers' voices.
Fetuses can hear in the womb, and, as a result, newborn babies are already familiar with their mothers' voices. In experiments using playbacks of recorded voices, newborns prefer their mothers' voices to the voices of other women (DeCasper and Fifer 1980; Bushnell et al 1989).
Newborns recognize their native language
Every language has its own characteristic rhythms, and newborns are savvy to them. In an experiment on 4-day old infants, Mehler and colleagues presented French babies with recordings of a bilingual speaker telling the same story-once in French, and once in Russian. The babies-who had "overheard" French in the womb-showed a clear preference for the French version of the story (Mehler et al 1987).
Newborns know about (and prefer to look at) faces
In experiments, newborn infants have shown a preference for looking at faces and face-like stimuli (e.g., Batki et al 2000). The babies are pretty discriminating, too. For example, they show a preference for faces with open eyes. And, given a choice between fearful and smiling faces, newborns look longer at happy faces (Farroni et al 2007).
Newborns learn to recognize their parents' faces very quickly.
A newborn can't see very well. Her vision is blurry, and her visual acuity is sharpest at the edges, rather than the center, of her visual field. Nevertheless, it appears that babies can learn to recognize faces in the first few hours of life.
In one study, researchers presented babies with video playbacks of women's faces (Bushnell et al 1989). The infants-who were between 12 and 36 hours old-showed a clear preference for watching their mothers' faces (rather than the faces of strangers).
Newborns prefer to look at people who make direct eye contact
Babies don't always want to stare into your eyes. It can be pretty intense, and babies sometimes break contact when they are tired or overstimulated.
However, like many adults, newborns show a preference for faces that make eye contact. In one experiment, researchers presented infants with a choice of two faces to look at--one with direct gaze, the other with averted gaze. The babies looked longer at the face with direct gaze (Farroni et al 2002).
Newborns become distressed when caregivers are socially unresponsive
To the surprise of many people, new research suggests that newborns prefer to look at expressive, responsive faces. It's as if they expect people to react to social interactions by using communicative facial expressions.
Psychologists have a method of testing for this understanding, and it's called the Still Face paradigm. The procedure begins with an adult interacting in a normal way with the baby. Then the adult suddenly adopts a neutral facial expression.
When Emese Nagy tried this on 90 babies less than 4 days old, she found that newborns were more likely to change their behavior, look away, and show signs of distress (Nagy 2008).
Newborns pay more attention to things that you are looking at
If I follow your gaze, I can infer all sorts of information: What you are looking at, how you feel about it, and what you might do next.
Gaze-following is an important developmental skill for older babies, and recent research suggests that even newborns practice a rudimentary form of it.
In one experiment, Teresa Farroni and colleagues showed newborn babies (ranging in age from 2 to 5 days) pictures of some crude, cartoonish faces with large eyes. The pupils of these cartoonish eyes could move from side to side, giving the appearance of a shifting gaze. There were two conditions:
? In the "congruent" condition, the face's gaze shifted towards a ...

Solution Summary

Two Web-based resources that discuss social development in young children.

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