Cognitive Development may appear to be a unified discipline or organic cooperation among several disciplines; however, the research shows chasms between fields devoted to the study of human development. The four reviewed articles show differing approaches to developmental studies, with varying degrees of effectiveness. The level of effectiveness appears to hinge on the scholar's willingness to use a generous number of approaches to the analysis of human development.
Harris, J.L., Brownell, K.D., & Bargh, J.A. (2009). The Food Marketing Defense Model: Integrating Psychological Research to Protect Youth and Inform Public Policy. Social Issues and Policy Review, 3(1), 211-271.
Harris et al. review the negative effects of food advertising targeted at youth, results of various studies regarding that phenomenon, and then suggest a possible defense model to counteract the powerful impact of food advertisers. They begin by attributing the "obesity epidemic" at least in part to advertising encouraging individuals to eat food high in calories and low in nutrition (Harris, Brownell, & Bargh, 2009, p. 212). They then review the scope and impact of food marketing targeting children and adolescents, reporting densely supported and stunning statistics based on studies by private researchers and by governmental bodies such as the FTC. For example, they report that: more than $1.6 billion was spent on television advertising directed at U.S. children in 2006; 98% of food ads are for foods high in sugar, fat and/or sodium; advertisers have moved significantly into non-TV advertising as well, spending more than half of their youth-targeting budgets on advertising in schools, on the internet, on toy giveaways, on promotional packaging, on ad placement in movies, in music, in video games, in sponsorships of sports and other events, and in cross promotions. Also, according to this report, advertisers rely on children's "pester power" to compel their parents to buy advertised products (Harris, Brownell, & Bargh, 2009, pp. 213-216). Harris et al. then review modern theories of social cognitive development; citing research by Bargh & Ferguson in 2000, Dijksterhuis, Chartrand and Aarts in 2007, Strack and Deutsch in 2004 and Willson and Bar-Anan in 2008, this article states stating that repeated exposure to food advertising can "lead directly to beliefs and behaviors without active, deliberate processing of the information presented" (Harris, Brownell, & Bargh, 2009, p. 217). Harris, et al. then propose a new defense model to protect children and adolescents from marketing ploys. The model consists of four conditions:
"(1) Awareness, including conscious attention to individual marketing stimuli and comprehension of their persuasive intent; (2) Understanding of the effects resulting from exposure to stimuli and how to effectively defend against those effects; (3) Ability, including cognitive capacity and available resources to effectively resist; and (4) Motivation, or the desire to resist" (Harris, Brownell, & Bargh, 2009, p. 218).
This article is very strong in its broad use of recent studies in a thoughtful and well-supported article backed by a thorough review of sources, scholarly articles, government statistics and studies in social development, cognitive development, social cognitive development and neuroscience. The scope and depth of the authors' research is impressive and convincing; what is more, they offer an excellent model for sales resistance, essentially "fighting fire with fire" by educating the targeted audience in the cognitive processes and manipulations used by advertisers. The authors' generous use of reliable information from many fields of human examination create a valuable source of synthesized information and approaches.
Lieberman, M.C. (2005). Principles, Processes and Puzzles of Social Cognition: An Introduction for the Special Issue on Social Cognitive Neuroscience. NeuroImage, 745-756.
Lieberman's article concentrates on five principles of social cognition and behavior, including: "the power of the situation over behavior," which is the basic social psychological concept that circumstances can powerfully affect behavior; "blindness for situational influences," which is the second basic psychological concept that people are not aware circumstances' powerful impact on behavior; "social perception and self-perception are constructive processes," which is a third social psychological concept that perception is as much a products of the mind's organization as it is an accurate impression of reality; "blindness for the constructed nature of social and self-perception," the social psychological concept that we believe we see reality rather than our perception of reality; and "self-processes are social," the social psychological concept that we undergo all these processes within the highly social contexts of friends, family, community, city, nation, and so forth (Lieberman, 2005, pp. 746-748).
Lieberman also examines four processes of social cognition, including: "cognitive architecture," which leads us to develop self-supporting stereotypes and biases; the dual process models of "automaticity and control," with automatic processes being those efficient and seemingly unconscious, effortless processes vs. controlled processes that require conscious effort; "motivated reasoning," in which the individual's sometimes unconscious desire to maintain his/her self-image may result in reasoning skewed to be self-enhancing; and "accessibility, frames, and expectations," which are mental limitations, expectations and preformed representations that affect our perception and interpretation of the world (Lieberman, 2005, pp. 748-750).
Finally, Lieberman reviews five "puzzles" within social cognition: "the self," which is ultimately an illusion; "attitudes," which do not necessarily correlate to behavior, despite traditional beliefs that professed attitudes can predict behaviors; "reflective social cognition," or introspection, which is highly fallible, predictable and changeable; "automatic social cognition," in which situations can unconsciously affect our behavior in bizarre ways; and "social motives," which our motivations to be liked, accepted and understood can lead to stated beliefs and behaviors that we know to be wrong (Lieberman, 2005, pp. 750-752).
Lieberman's article is essentially a primer on basic aspects of social cognition for the benefit of cognitive neuroscientists. Lieberman embarks on this examination in order to bridge an apparent disconnection between social psychologists and cognitive neuroscientists due to alleged complaints of social psychologists that: neuroscientists use cognitive principles for their own benefit without contributing enough to the field of social cognition; neuroscientists tend to devalue social psychologists because their language is "the language of everyday life" (Lieberman, 2005, p. 746). The strengths of this article are the acknowledgement of a disconnection between social psychologists and neuroscientists and the attempt to bridge the gap between two disciplines that can ultimately benefit from working together more closely. The primary weakness of the article is its cursory treatment of principles, processes and puzzles of social cognition and behavior. Granted, Lieberman states that this is not supposed to be a comprehensive treatment of those issues but a more thorough examination of these topics would go further in bridging the alleged gap.
Olson, K.R., & Dweck, C.S. (2008). A Blueprint for Social Cognitive Development. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3(3), 193-202.
Olson and Dweck set forth more than a blueprint in this article; rather, they are attempting to highlight the important contributions that social cognitive development has made and can make to the field of developmental psychology. Olson and Dweck approach this task by outlining assumptions about social cognitive development, its contributions and/or lack of contributions, goals of social cognitive development and potential for future contributions to developmental psychology. According to Olsen and Dweck, studies on social development have contributed some valuable knowledge about children; however, as a whole, they devote too little study to underlying social cognitive processes in the forms of "mental representations and processes" that are vital to fully understanding the existence and development of "social phenomena" (Olson & Dweck, 2008, p. 294). Olsen and Dweck then go on to describe how the methodology of cognitive development concentrates on the internal processes - how cognition exists, operates and develops within infants and children -- which could significantly enhance the goals of social cognitive development: to analyze social cognitive impression or process deemed important in human development; to deliberate alter a social cognitive impression and analyze the impact during development; to examine the sources of the mental impression or process; compare laboratory findings with reality (Olson & Dweck, 2008, pp. 195-196). Olson and Dweck believe that these four principles can be carried into new research areas explored by social cognitive development, particularly in conjunction with social development, but also with neuroscience and social cognition (Olson & Dweck, 2008, p. 198).
The article appears somewhat confusing and artificially segmented regarding the contributions and differences among social development, social cognition and cognitive development, perhaps due to the verbiage or structure of the article. In my experience, those disciplines are pursued more organically and cooperatively. Nevertheless, I must entertain the possibility that the authors' more splintered vision of these disciplines may be more realistic than my own; it may be that my own experience is too limited to recognize the accuracy of their assessment. Whether the authors or I am correct, their attempt to foster closer working relationships among disciplines is admirable and dovetails with Lieberman's attempts in the prior article.
Rutland, A., Cameron, L., Milne, A., & McGeorge, P. (2005). Social Norms and Self-Presentation: Children's Implicit and Explicit Intergroup Attitudes. Child Development, 76, 451-466.
Rutland et al. report the results of two studies conducted by social scientists to determine whether children's interest in the way others observe…