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Patterns of co-occurring non-verbal behaviour and self-directed speech; a comparison of three methodological approaches


Self-directed speech – the audible or partially whispered self-talk that children engage in during their daily activities, was proposed by Vygotsky to have a mediating role in the emerging self-regulatory behaviour of young children. Studies with correlational findings tend to lend support to this hypothesis but fail to delineate the real-time temporal interactions between self-directed speech and self-regulatory behaviour. The authors propose the use of lag sequential analysis and t-pattern analysis as useful and complementary methods for detecting significantly recurring patterns of co-occurrence of self-directed speech and non-verbal behaviour (that is either self-regulatory or shows a failure of self-regulation). Furthermore, it is argued that the analysis of these co-occurrences is required to establish the functions of self-directed speech, and to determine in what ways these might be self-regulatory. Illustrative analyses are presented of data from a study comparing the patterns of self-directed speech use during a planning task in typically developing children and matched peers with Specific Language Impairment. The results obtained from t-pattern analysis reveal qualitative differences between these two groups of children, in their use of self-directed speech, which were not detected by the other two methods. Implications of examining recurring temporal patterns in behaviour for research investigating aspects of development, particularly self-regulation, are discussed.

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This research was supported by two PhD studentships funded by the Cambridge Overseas Trust and the LEGO® Learning Institute.

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Correspondence to David Whitebread.

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Kuvalja, M., Verma, M. & Whitebread, D. Patterns of co-occurring non-verbal behaviour and self-directed speech; a comparison of three methodological approaches. Metacognition Learning 9, 87–111 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11409-013-9106-7

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  • Self-directed speech
  • Private speech
  • Self-regulation
  • Specific Language Impairment (SLI)
  • Temporal pattern
  • T-pattern analysis