This essay will explore the behaviorist approaches to both language and cognitive development, at the same time critically evaluating it in terms of the main alternative approaches of nativism and constructivism (which also includes the social interaction approach to language). To do this it will first give a brief explanation of how behaviorists understand the development of language and thought. It will then list the main assumptions implicit in behaviorist views. Using these assumptions the essay will then look at evidence which both supports and contradicts these assumptions. In doing so it will draw on some approaches which although not strictly behaviorist do contain elements of associative or empiricist principal's most notable connectionist approaches. It will conclude by showing how rather than being seen as conflicting views, development may actually involve elements of all the approaches.
[...] For example she explains how the word ‘out' entered her daughter's vocabulary from an attempt to get out of her high chair. Initially she communicated her desire by making efforts to get out accompanied by an item of protolanguage. Ferrier's consistent reaction was to ask you want to get Shortly after she started producing as a demand in that context but later generalized ‘out' as a demand to get in the high chair as well. Contrary to a learning theorists or behaviorists view, this suggests that as well as learning by shaping and imitation, a child is also actively experimenting with language in an effort to further communicate her desires. [...]
[...] Also Mclelland and Rumelhart (1986) used a connectionist model to show how over time a network can produce the same patterns of error in past tenses that children are seen to make (eg wented') before learning the adult forms. This seems to offer some argument against Chomsky's view that children's novel productions indicate a creativity that is inconsistent with behaviorist ideas. However whether it can still be argued that a connectionist view is able to account for all creative thought, decision making and other mental thought is still questionable. [...]
[...] J. A., and BOWER, T. G. R. (1992) ‘Recognition of familiar faces by newborns', Infant Behavior and Development pp. 265-9 KARMILOFF-SMITH, A. (1992) Beyond Modularity: a developmental perspective on cognitive science, Cambridge (Mass.), MIT Press. COULSON, M. (1995) ‘Models of Memory Development' in LEE, V. and DAS GUPTA, P. (eds.) Children's Cognitive and Language Development', Chapter Milton Keynes, [...]
[...] Because behaviorists do not accept the idea of mental representations, it is difficult to conceive of a behaviorist explanation of how children learn to think since according to behaviorists they only learn to ‘behave'. One possible explanation that could be compatible with a behaviorist view is the idea that it is language that determines thought the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, (see Bancroft, ch. 4,1995). So as a child, by means of shaping or reinforcement, to correctly label a cat in the right context, at the same time he has learnt that there is a category that cats fit into. [...]
[...] However others such as Mandler (1992) have argued that to be able to perceive similarity and difference is a different ability altogether from being able to categorize objects according to a stored knowledge of what things are like. This could fit with a connectionist view where the ability to perceive difference actually being no more than differences between stimuli that neurones are sensitive to but later categorization occurs after the network has ‘learnt' about information in the environment. Is development domain general? [...]
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