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Buchsbaum, D. et al. (2012) The power of possibility: causal learning, counterfactual reasoning, and pretend play (Journal Article)

Abstract:

We argue for a theoretical link between the development of an extended period of immaturity in human evolution and the emergence of powerful and wide-ranging causal learning mechanisms, specifically the use of causal models and Bayesian learning. We suggest that exploratory childhood learning, childhood play in particular, and causal cognition are closely connected. We report an empirical study demonstrating one such connection—a link between pretend play and counterfactual causal reasoning. Preschool children given new information about a causal system made very similar inferences both when they considered counterfactuals about the system and when they engaged in pretend play about it. Counterfactual cognition and causally coherent pretence were also significantly correlated even when age, general cognitive development and executive function were controlled for. These findings link a distinctive human form of childhood play and an equally distinctive human form of causal inference. We speculate that, during human evolution, computations that were initially reserved for solving particularly important ecological problems came to be used much more widely and extensively during the long period of protected immaturity.

Date:
January 2012
Volume:
367
Page/s:
2202-2212
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Pretend play
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Toub, T. et al. (2018) The language of play: Developing preschool vocabulary through play following shared book-reading (Journal Article)

Weisberg, D. (2015) Pretend play (Journal Article)

Title Pretend play
Abstract:

Pretend play is a form of playful behavior that involves nonliteral action. Although on the surface this activity appears to be merely for fun, recent research has discovered that children's pretend play has connections to important cognitive and social skills, such as symbolic thinking, theory of mind, and counterfactual reasoning. The current article first defines pretend play and then reviews the arguments and evidence for these three connections. Pretend play has a nonliteral correspondence to reality, hence pretending may provide children with practice with navigating symbolic relationships, which may strengthen their language skills. Pretend play and theory of mind reasoning share a focus on others' mental states in order to correctly interpret their behavior, hence pretending and theory of mind may be mutually supportive in development. Pretend play and counterfactual reasoning both involve representing nonreal states of affairs, hence pretending may facilitate children's counterfactual abilities. These connections make pretend play an important phenomenon in cognitive science: Studying children's pretend play can provide insight into these other abilities and their developmental trajectories, and thereby into human cognitive architecture and its development.

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Date:
January 2015
Volume:
6
Page/s:
249-261
Synonyms:
  • Atypical development
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Language
  • Literature review
  • Pretend play
  • Social cognition
  • Social-emotional
  • Symbolic play
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Weisberg, D. et al. () How Guided Play Promotes Early Childhood Learning (Web Page)

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Weisberg, D. et al. (2013) Embracing complexity: Rethinking the relation between play and learning: Comment on Lillard et al. (2013) (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Lillard et al. (2013) concluded that pretend play is not causally related to child outcomes and charged that the field is subject to a play ethos, whereby research is tainted by a bias to find positive effects of play on child development. In this commentary, we embrace their call for a more solidly scientific approach to questions in this important area of study while offering 2 critiques of their analysis. First, we urge researchers to take a more holistic approach to the body of evidence on play and learning, rather than relying on piecemeal criticisms of individual studies, since positive effects of play on learning emerge despite the use of a variety of methods, contents, and experimental conditions. Second, we consider how best to study this topic in the future and propose moving away from traditional empirical approaches to more complicated statistical models and methods that will allow us to embrace the full variety and complexity of playful learning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Date:
January 2013
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
139
Page/s:
35-39
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Learning
  • Playful learning
  • Pretend play
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Weisberg, D. et al. (2013) Guided Play: Where Curricular Goals Meet a Playful Pedagogy (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Decades of research demonstrate that a strong curricular approach to preschool education is important for later developmental outcomes. Although these findings have often been used to support the implementation of educational programs based on direct instruction, we argue that guided play approaches can be equally effective at delivering content and are more developmentally appropriate in their focus on child-centered exploration. Guided play lies midway between direct instruction and free play, presenting a learning goal, and scaffolding the environment while allowing children to maintain a large degree of control over their learning. The evidence suggests that such approaches often outperform direct-instruction approaches in encouraging a variety of positive academic outcomes. We argue that guided play approaches are effective because they create learning situations that encourage children to become active and engaged partners in the learning process.

Date:
January 2013
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
7
Page/s:
104–112
Synonyms:
  • Academic outcomes
  • Free play
  • Literature review
  • Playful learning
  • Pre-academic skills
  • Guided-play
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Weisberg, D. et al. (2013) Pretense, Counterfactuals, and Bayesian Causal Models: Why What Is Not Real Really Matters (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Young children spend a large portion of their time pretending about non-real situations. Why? We answer this question by using the framework of Bayesian causal models to argue that pretending and counterfactual reasoning engage the same component cognitive abilities: disengaging with current reality, making inferences about an alternative representation of reality, and keeping this representation separate from reality. In turn, according to causal models accounts, counterfactual reasoning is a crucial tool that children need to plan for the future and learn about the world. Both planning with causal models and learning about them require the ability to create false premises and generate conclusions from these premises. We argue that pretending allows children to practice these important cognitive skills. We also consider the prevalence of unrealistic scenarios in children's play and explain how they can be useful in learning, despite appearances to the contrary.

Date:
January 2013
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
37
Page/s:
1368-1381
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Learning
  • Literature review
  • Pretend play
  • Social cognition
  • Social-emotional
  • Symbolic play
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Weisberg, D. et al. (2015) Making play work for education (Journal Article)

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Date:
May 2015
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Volume:
96
Page/s:
8-13
Synonyms:
  • Social play
  • Teacher/caregiver play
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Weisberg, D. et al. (2016) Guided Play: Principles and Practices (Journal Article)

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Date:
June 2016
Volume:
25
Page/s:
177-182
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