spring 2017
PSY-2028 Cognitive development in infancy and early childhood - 10 ECTS

Application deadline

Applicants from Nordic countries: 1 June for the autumn semester and 1 December for the spring semester. Exchange students and Fulbright students: 1 October for the spring semester and 15 April for the autumn semester.

Type of course

The course can be taken as a singular course.

Recommended prerequisites: PSY-1001 Introduction to psychology

Admission requirements

9199 singular course

Course content

Do infants and young children understand cause and effect? Can they remember what they did last summer? How do they learn what a fork or a remote control is for? When do they start to understand that people have thoughts and feelings? And perhaps most interestingly, how can we find out what they know and think, if we cannot just ask them?

These and similar questions will be discussed in this course in order to provide a comprehensive overview of cognitive development from infancy to preschool age. Following a theoretical introduction on constructivism (Piaget's theory) and neoconstructivism, the lectures will focus on a few prominent areas of cognitive developmental research, such as conceptual development, categorization, language development, naïve physics, reasoning about objects, action understanding, imitation, memory, and theory of mind. Findings about young children's knowledge and reasoning in these areas will be discussed with an emphasis on the most common experimental paradigms in developmental research. In addition, students will get an opportunity to develop their science literacy and communication skills by reading and presenting original research articles and engaging in discussions.


Content learning: In this course, early cognitive development will be discussed in far more detail than what is possible in the scope of the developmental psychology lectures.

Skill learning: This course will help students develop their critical reading and efficient presentation skills, which are not only essential in academia, but also beneficial in a wide range of occupational areas.

Recommended prerequisites

PSY-1001 Introduction to psychology

Objectives of the course

Successful completion of the course will lead to the following learning outcomes:


Students will have

  • an understanding of the methods used in research on cognitive development
  • knowledge about theories and empirical findings in some prominent areas of cognitive development


Students will have developed their ability to

  • critically read scientific articles and identify the main arguments
  • give a short and efficient presentation about a research topic and engage in a productive discussion

General competence:

Students will have developed their ability to

  • work independently
  • speak in front of an audience
  • give and receive constructive feedback

Language of instruction and examination

The lectures and the exam questions will be given in English, but students will be allowed to answer the exam questions in Norwegian. Student presentations should be given in English.

Teaching methods

12 lectures, 2 hours each. The first part of each lecture will be seminar-like, starting with a student presentation and a discussion. The second part will be a classical lecture, but active participation will be encouraged throughout.


4 hours written exam, graded alphabetically A-F.

A re-sit exam exam will be arranged early in the following semester, for candidates who failed the exam.  


Coursework requirement:

Short presentation - Students will give a short presentation based on 1-2 papers and receive feedback both from their peers and the lecturer. Presentation topics and dates will be agreed on in the first meeting of the class.


Active participation in the discussion - Attending the lectures is not mandatory, but students are requested to give a presentation according to a schedule agreed on in the first meeting, and to attend at least one other lecture, where they are requested to actively participate in the discussion following the student presentation.

Recommended reading/syllabus

Student presentations (234.5 pages for 22 presentations)

Baillargeon, R., Scott, R. M., & He, Z. (2010). False-belief understanding in infants. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14, 110-118. (7 pages)

Banerjee, K., Kominsky, J. F., Fernando, M., & Keil, F. C. (2015). Figuring out function: Children¿s and adults¿ use of ownership information in judgments of artifact function. Developmental Psychology, 51, 1791-1801. (8.5 pages)

Beisert, M., Zmyj, N., Liepelt, R., Jung, F., Prinz, W., & Daum, M. M. (2012). Rethinking `rational imitation¿ in 14-month-old infants: a perceptual distraction approach. PLoS One, 7, e32563. (4 pages)

Call, J., & Tomasello, M. (2008). Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind? 30 years later. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12(5), 187-192. (4 pages)

Charman, T., Ruffman, T., & Clements, W. (2002). Is there a gender difference in false belief development?. Social Development, 11(1), 1-10. (8 pages)

Defeyter, M. A., Avons, S. E., & German, T. C. (2007). Developmental changes in information central to artifact representation: Evidence from `functional fluency¿ tasks. Developmental Science, 10, 538-546. (7.5 pages)

Ferrari, P. F., Visalberghi, E., Paukner, A., Fogassi, L., Ruggiero, A., & Suomi, S. J. (2006). Neonatal imitation in rhesus macaques. PLoS Biol, 4(9), e302. (7 pages)

Gergely, G., Bekkering, H., & Király, I. (2002). Rational imitation in preverbal infants. Nature, 415(6873), 755-755. (1 page)

Heathcock, J. C., Bhat, A. N., Lobo, M. A., & Galloway, J. C. (2004). The performance of infants born preterm and full-term in the mobile paradigm: learning and memory. Physical Therapy, 84(9), 808-821. (13 pages)

Imuta, K., Henry, J. D., Slaughter, V., Selcuk, B., & Ruffman, T. (2016). Theory of mind and prosocial behavior in childhood: A meta-analytic review. (10 pages)

Jones, S. S. (2006). Exploration or imitation? The effect of music on 4-week-old infants¿ tongue protrusions. Infant Behavior and Development, 29(1), 126-130. (4 pages)

Kolling, T., & Knopf, M. (2015). Measuring declarative memory from infancy to childhood: The Frankfurt imitation tests for infants and children aged 12¿36 months. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 12(3), 359-376. (17 pages)

Krist, H. (2010). Development of intuitions about support beyond infancy. Developmental psychology, 46(1), 266. (11 pages)

Krupenye, C., Kano, F., Hirata, S., Call, J., & Tomasello, M. (2016). Great apes anticipate that other individuals will act according to false beliefs. Science, 354(6308), 110-114. (4 pages)

Leslie, A. M. (1987). Pretense and representation: The origins of" theory of mind.". Psychological review, 94(4), 412-426. (13 pages)

Meltzoff, A. N. (1988). Infant imitation after a 1-week delay: long-term memory for novel acts and multiple stimuli. Developmental Psychology, 24(4), 470-476. (5.5 pages)

Meltzoff, A. N., & Moore, M. K. (1977). Imitation of facial and manual gestures by human neonates. Science, 198(4312), 75-78. (4 pages)

Myowa¿Yamakoshi, M., Tomonaga, M., Tanaka, M., & Matsuzawa, T. (2004). Imitation in neonatal chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Developmental science, 7(4), 437-442. (5 pages)

Onishi, K. H., & Baillargeon, R. (2005). Do 15-month-old infants understand false beliefs?. Science, 308(5719), 255-258. (3 pages)

Oostenbroek, J., Suddendorf, T., Nielsen, M., Redshaw, J., Kennedy-Costantini, S., Davis, J., ... & Slaughter, V. (2016). Comprehensive longitudinal study challenges the existence of neonatal imitation in humans. Current Biology, 26(10), 1334-1338. (4.5 pages)

Pine, K. J., & Messer, D. J. (2000). The effect of explaining another's actions on children's implicit theories of balance. Cognition and Instruction, 18(1), 35-51. (15.5 pages)

Preissler, M. A., & Carey, S. (2005). The role of inferences about referential intent in word learning: Evidence from autism. Cognition, 97(1), B13-B23. (9 pages)

Rostad, K., Yott, J., & Poulin-Dubois, D. (2012). Development of categorization in infancy: Advancing forward to the animate/inanimate level. Infant Behavior and Development, 35(3), 584-595. (11 pages)

Smith, W. C., Johnson, S. P., & Spelke, E. S. (2003). Motion and edge sensitivity in perception of object unity. Cognitive Psychology, 46(1), 31-64. (31 pages)

Sutton, J., Smith, P. K., & Swettenham, J. (1999). Bullying and `theory of mind¿: A critique of the `social skills deficit¿view of anti¿social behaviour. Social Development, 8(1), 117-127. (8 pages)

Tomasello, M. (2000). The social-pragmatic theory of word learning. Pragmatics, 10(4). 401-413. (11 pages)

Träuble, B., Pauen, S., & Poulin-Dubois, D. (2014). Speed and direction changes induce the perception of animacy in 7-month-old infants. Frontiers in Psychology, 5: 1141 (7 pages)

Additional literature (133 pages)

Karmiloff-Smith, A. (1996). Beyond modularity: A developmental perspective on cognitive science. MIT press. Chapter 1, pp. 1-29. (29 pages), Chapter 2, pp. 31-63. (33 pages), Chapter 3, pp. 31-63. (24 pages), Chapter 5, pp. 117-138. (22 pages), Chapter 7, pp. 165-173 (9 pages)

Siegler, R., DeLoache, J., Eisenberg, N., & Saffran, J. (2014). How children develop (4th ed.). Macmillan. Chapter 4, pp. 130-145. (16 pages)

Error rendering component

  • About the course
  • Campus: Tromsø |
  • ECTS: 10
  • Course code: PSY-2028
  • Earlier years and semesters for this topic