The Role of Social Experience in Cognitive Development

  • Harry B. Kavanagh
Part of the NATO Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 14)


This paper argues that since humans are social animals (Aristotle) their level of survival depends to a great extent on problem solving thinking for social adaptation. Human social adaptation is markedly different from that of higher animals with which man shares so much behavior. This difference arose in humans in their evolutionary history at the point when they developed the power of thought and reflection. This power allows humans to be better problem solvers than higher animals and to plan their futures. Central to this future is knowledge and its uses of different kinds of problem solving. A model of cognitive development for problem solving that pays special attention to a form of social adaptation is put forward. This model is called distancing (Sigel, 1970) and it proposes a class of verbal and nonverbal interactions with young children, which are hypothesized as contributing to representational thought which in turn facilitates social adaptation.


Cognitive Development Social Experience High Animal Social Adaptation Advanced Mode 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Erickson, E.H. Identity youth and crisis. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1968.Google Scholar
  2. Joyce, J. A portrait of the artist as a young man. New York: Vision Press, 1916.Google Scholar
  3. Piaget, J. “Piaget’s theory.” In P. Müssen (Ed.), Carmichael’s handbook of child psychology. New York: Wiley, 1970.Google Scholar
  4. Russell, Bertrand. An outline of philosophy. New York: Meridian Books, 1960.Google Scholar
  5. Sigel, I. and Saunders, R. An inquiry into inquiry: question asking as an instructional model. In L.G. Katz (ed.) Current topics in early childhood education (vol. 2). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Pubüshing Corp., 1979.Google Scholar
  6. Sigel, I.E. The distancing hypothesis: A causal hypothesis for the acquisition of representational thought. In M. R. Jones (Ed.), The effects of early experience. Miami, FL: University of Miami Press, 1970.Google Scholar
  7. Sigel, I.E. Social experience in the development of representational thought: distancing theory. Presidential address presented at the meeting of the Jean Piaget Society, Philadelphia, PA: May, 1978.Google Scholar
  8. Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. The future of man. New York: Harper & Row, 1960.Google Scholar
  9. Werner, H. Comparative psychology of mental development. New York: Science editions, 1948.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harry B. Kavanagh
    • 1
  1. 1.Rider CollegeLawrencevilleUSA

Personalised recommendations