Understanding “Why”: Its Significance in Early Intelligence

  • Marion Blank
  • Doris A. Allen


The past decade of developmental research has led to a heightened respect for the intellectual functioning of the very young child. Following the direction set by Piaget many years ago, several investigators have suggested that from the earliest months the child categorizes and interprets the world that confronts him (Kagan, 1972; Eimas, in press; Haith et al., 1969). According to this view, the child develops a large repertoire of concepts that define the objects, people, places, and events with which he has contact. The processes through which the categories are defined differ according to the age of the child and the type of information involved. For example, neonates have been found to give preferential attention to moving objects and to light and dark contrasts, indicating that these perceptions may be present in the visual system at birth (Kagan, 1972). Also at a very early age infants appear to recognize and even to prefer the human face and voice over other shapes and sounds, a preference that some investigators have interpreted as suggesting that the human child has a perceptual set for attending to these human attributes (Fantz, 1961; Eimas et al., 1971). Other kinds of information processing appear to be dependent upon the child’s maturation and/or his experience with the external world. Gibson (1969) has suggested that the young child’s early attention to single features gradually gives way to perception of bundles of features, which are perceived at a later developmental stage as distinctive features that the child uses in deriving higher-level categories. It is difficult to say at what point in the child’s development his early percepts become organized as concepts. What is important to our purposes is that the child is no longer being viewed as a passive recipient of external stimulation; rather, he is seen as an active processor of information from a very early age (see Kessen, 1965). Investigators generally agree not only that the child’s early learning is extensive and complex but that it is also accomplished nonverbally.


Language Acquisition Question Form Early Child Development Question Word Nominal Phrase 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marion Blank
    • 1
  • Doris A. Allen
    • 2
  1. 1.Rutgers Medical SchoolUSA
  2. 2.Albert Einstein College of MedicineUSA

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