Ildikó Király, “Changes in the focus of developmental models: From social contexts to social cognition”, in Gervain J., Csibra, G., Kovacs, K. (Eds) A Life in Cognition, Springer, 2021, pp. 307-321
The relevance of the social context in development gained specific emphasis from social constructivist approaches, which claimed that specific representational systems emerge from social-communicative interactions. According to this approach, most of the knowledge of a human individual is learnt through interactions, via indirect sources, and not necessarily from direct experience. In contrast, current models of cognitive development focus on the development of the individual independently from the social environment, and share the presumption that there are some innate factors that shape development. These models recognize the importance of the social environment, yet handle it as a specific domain of social relations or agents. I introduce new avenues of developmental research that postulate special innate social capacities that make children able to exploit the routes for indirect learning: learning from others, as well as learning about others. These social cognitive models allow children to exploit the presence of knowledgeable partners in order to fulfill their information seeking motivation.
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