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Social interaction and cognitive growth: an examination through the role-taking skills of deaf and hearing children

Howe, Christine and Howely, M. (2004) Social interaction and cognitive growth: an examination through the role-taking skills of deaf and hearing children. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 22 (2). pp. 219-243. ISSN 0261-510X

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Abstract

Recent research using theory-of-mind tasks has rekindled interest in the possibility that social interaction makes a significant contribution to cognitive development. It is proposed here that this contribution may be most pronounced with phenomena that, like belief or affective states, are internal and abstract. A more modest contribution is envisaged with phenomena that are overt and perceptible. The proposal is explored via comparison of deaf and hearing children's ability to engage in affective and perceptual role-taking, since the aspects of social interaction that have been implicated in cognitive development are known to be problematic for deaf children. Therefore, the proposal of more marked consequences for internal and abstract phenomena leads to the hypothesis that deaf children should lag behind hearing children on affective role-taking, while showing little or no difference on perceptual role-taking. The hypothesis was tested in two studies, one involving 10 deaf children and 10 hearing children aged 6.94- 8.93 years and the other involving 25 deaf children and 20 hearing children aged 5.08- 11.58 years. In both studies, affective role-taking was examined using a task developed from Chandler (1973), while perceptual role-taking was examined via an extension of Hughes and Donaldson's (1979) hiding task. The results provide consistent support for the hypothesis, and patterns of correlation between age, affective performance and perceptual performance give clues to the relevant developmental mechanisms.