Advanced Topics in Cognitive Development


2 September – 22 October 2008, Tuesday 9:00 – 11:00, A409; Wednesday 11:00 – 13:00 A409.


1 October – 22 October 2007, Wednesday 9:00 – 11:00 B07 & B25.


Week 1



Weeks 2 - 7

-       Each week is about one subject that is discussed from 1 or 2 central questions.

-       Tuesdays are designed to understand the core article of the week.

-       Wednesdays are designed to present and discuss the additional articles and central questions.

-       All students read one core article per week and formulates 2 important questions about it.

-       1 student does close reading on the core article and looks up all unclear issues.

-       The other 2 students read one additional article. He/she prepares a powerpoint presentation of 15 minutes that discusses the article from the viewpoint of the key questions.

-       Students reading an additional article post a powerpoint presentation to blackboard at the latest Tuesday evening before the Wednesday meeting.


-       The student who prepared the core article summarizes it, pointing out the important questions and answers of the research.

-       We continue with posing questions about the core article to the student who did close reading of the article. But other students and the teacher will fill in as well.

-       We will discuss the central questions and how they are addressed in the core article.


-       Class starts with the two presentations from the students.

-       Class continues with a discussion about the central questions of the week. Each student is expert on his/her article.

Wednesday morning

-       During the last four weeks Wednesday morning may start at 9.00AM with a practical, which is testing a young child with an established empirical paradigm or an assessments. The practical is followed by the evaluation.


Week 8

Guest lecture about one core-article that you read in advance.



Either - Design and test an experimental paradigm that is often used in cognitive development with a preschool child (0 – 4 years).

Or - Test a child aged 0-4 years with the a) Bayley Scales of Infant Development II-NL or b) the language tests Schlichting and Reynell (scenarion see blackboard).

Student organize themselves a child between 0 and 4 years of age. We will try to have children of different ages such that the whole age range (0 – 4 years) will be covered.


Prepare the test event for your participant thoroughly. Do the assessment. Write a short evaluation of the test-event.

In addition, prepare the test/experiment of a fellow student and observe and score this test event from behind the mirror. Write a short evaluation of this test event.

Be present at the other test events.


Take home exam

Write two essays. Each essay is about a subject that was discussed in the class.  In the essay you answer the to the subject related central question with a well-founded argument. About 1500 words per essay.



Presentations 20%

Participation 20%

Practical 20%

Take-home exam 40%


Course rules

Presence in classes is obligatory.

Reading the required articles is obligatory

Active participation during the classes is needed (and graded).
Week 1


Tuesday 2 September

Introduction course


Presentations and discussion

Background students

Introduction practicals


Wednesday 3 September

Introduction connectionism in cognitive development

Background material:

-       Bechtel W., Abrahamsen A. (2002) Connectionism And The Mind
Parallel Processing, Dynamics And Evolution In Networks. 2nd Rev Ed. Blackwell Publishers. Chapter 1 – 3. paper copy is available. The book has been used in the course “connectionistische modellen” taught by Jaap Murre.

-       O'Reilly, R. C. (1998). Six principles for biologically-based computational models of cortical cognition. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2, 455-462.

-       Y. Munakata and J.L. McClelland, Connectionist models of development, Dev. Sci. 6 (2003), pp. 413–429.


Week 2

9 – 10 September

Core Knowledge – Dorothy Mandell

Spelke, E. S., Breinlinger, K., Macomber, J., & Jacobson, K. (1992). Origins of knowledge. Psychological Review, 99, 605-632.

Spelke, E. S. & Kinzler, K. D. (2007). Core Knowledge. Developmental Science, 10, 89-96


  1. Bertenthal, B.I. Longo, M. R. & Kenny, S. (2007). Phenomenal permanence and the development of predictive tracking in infancy. Child Development, 78, 350-363.
  2. Johnson, S. P., Amso, D., & Slemmer, J. A. (2003). Development of object concepts in infancy: Evidence for early learning in an eye-tracking paradigm. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100, 10568-10573.


Key questions

What is the experimental criterion for identifying a process as Core Knowledge? What is the logic of inferring psychological processes from habituation paradigms? What are the advantages of the paradigm and the limitations? How does learning-within-an-experiment affect whether a psychological processes can be interpreted as being in a Core Knowledge system? 


Week 3

16-18 September

Balance scale/Strategy analysis

Jansen and H. L. J. van der Maas, Statistical test of the rule assessment methodology by latent class analysis. Developmental Review 17 (1997), pp. 321–357.


  1. Act-R
    Van Rijn, H., van Someren, M. and van der Maas, H.L.J. (2003). Modeling developmental transitions on the balance scale task. Cognitive Science 27, pp. 227–257.
  2. Quinlan, P.T., van der Maas, H.L.J., Jansen, B.R.J., Booij, O., & Rendell, M. (2007). Re-thinking stages of cognitive development: an appraisal of connectionist models of the balance scale task. Cognition, 103 (3), 413–459.
    van der Maas, H.L.J., Quinlan, P.T., & Jansen, B.R.J. (2007). Towards better computational models of the balance scale task: a reply to Shultz and Takane. Cognition, 103 (3), 473–479.
    Shultz and Takane, 2007 Shultz, T.R., & Takane, Y. (2007). Rule following and rule use in the balance-scale task. Cognition, in press, doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2006.12.004.


Central questions

Under which conditions can one speak of rule-use?

a) concerning children b) concerning computer models


What would the ideal model for learning the balance scale task look like?

a) What kind of architecture (connectionist model/neural network, production-system, hybrid model)? b) What are the criteria for being a good model?


Background: Siegler (2004) Chapter 10 or Hetherington & Park (2003) Chapter 10 or Goswami (2008) Chapter 6.



Week 4

23 – 24 September

Categorization in Infancy, cats & dogs– Dorothy Mandell

Mandler, J. M., & McDonough, L. (1998). On developing a knowledge base in infancy. Development Psychology, 34, 1274–1288.


  1. Kirkham, N. Z., Slemmer, J. A. & Johnson, S. P. (2002) Visual statistical learning in infancy: Evidence for a domain general learning mechanism. Cognition 83. B35-B42.
  2. Younger, B. (1993). Understanding category members as “the same sort of thing”: Explicit categorization in ten-month infants. Child Development, 64, 309-320.


Key questions:
What are the differences between correlated, statistical and frequency relationships between features? How can detecting relations between features early in infancy lead to the developmental changes in categorization described by Mandler?  


Week 5

30 – 1 October

Causal reasoning– Dorothy Mandell

Gopnik, A., Glymour, C., Sobel, D. M., Schulz, L. E., Kushnir, T., & Danks, D. (2004). A theory of causal learning in children: Causal maps and Bayes nets. Psychological Review, 111(1), 3-32.


  1. McClelland, J.L. & Thompson, R. M. (2007). Using domain-general principles to explain children’s causal reasoning abilities. Developmental Science, 10, 333-356.
  2. Sobel, D.M. & Kirkham, N.Z. (2006). Blickets and babies: The development of casual reasoning in toddlers and infants. Developmental Psychology, 42, 1103-1115.


Key Questions

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a Bayesian model to explain causal understanding? Where is “development” in the Bayesian Net? How is causal reasoning related to category formation and how is it different?


Week 6

7-8 October

Development of Intelligence – Maartje Raijmakers & Kees-Jan Kan.

van der Maas, H. L. J., Dolan, C. V., Grasman, R. P. P. P. , Wicherts, J. M. , Huizenga, H. M. & Raijmakers, M. E. J. (2006). A dynamical model of general intelligence: the positive manifold of intelligence by mutualism. Psychological Review, Vol. 113, No. 4, 842–861.  


  1. McArdle, J. J., Ferrer-Caja, E., Hamagami, F., & Woodcock, R. W. (2002). Comparative longitudinal structural analyses of the growth and decline of multiple intellectual abilities over the life span. Developmental Psychology, 38, 115–142.
  2. Bartels, M., Rietveld, J. H., van Baal, G. C. M., & Boomsma, D. I. (2002). Genetic and environmental influences on the development of intelligence. Behavior Genetics, 32, 236–249.


Key Questions

To be announced.


Week 7

14 – 16 October

Executive Function – Dorothy Mandell

Casey, B.J., Tottenham, N., & Fossella, J. (2002). Clinical, imaging, lesion and genetic approaches towards a model of cognitive control. Developmental Psychobiology, 40, 237-254.


  1. Carlson, S. (2005). Developmentally sensitive measures of executive function in preschool children. Developmental Neuropsychology, 28, 595-616.
  2. Luciana, M. Conklin, H.M., Hooper, C J., & Yager, R.S. (2005). The development of nonverbal working memory an executive control processes in adolescents. Child Development, 76, 667-712.


Is Executive Functioning a unitary or a multi-dimensional processes and what aspects of the behavioral and the neurological work support your conclusion? Are cognitive control, executive control and executive function the same construct or different constructs? How are the executive functioning measures and constructs identified in infancy related to those used in childhood and adolescents?


Week 8

21 October

Evolutionary-Developmental Psychology

Ploeger, A., Raijmakers, M. E. J., & van der Maas, H. L. J., (2008). Is Evolutionary Developmental Biology a Viable Approach to the Study of the Human Mind? + Commentaries + reply. Psychological Inquiry, 19(1), p. 1 - 48.