Sociocultural Tradition and Infant Learning

perceptual development led formulation moderate-discrepancy hypothesis. Provide analysis hypothesis text additional scholarly sources a .Define moderate-discrepancy hypothesis. b.Identify describe types educational materials hold children’s attention.

Define the moderate-discrepancy hypothesis

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According to Kinney & Kagan (cited by Kidd 2010), “infants will preferentially attend to stimuli that are ‘optimally discrepant,’ meaning those that are most distinct from the representations they already possess” (Kidd et al. 2010: 2777). This means that infants and small children prefer things which are different but not too different from what they already know. The moderate discrepancy hypothesis is also based upon the notion that children cannot cognitively process material before they are capable of doing so — the hypothesis is based upon relative similarity between the learned novel and the existing stimuli: totally new stimuli are very difficult to assimilate. In a study of children’s television-watching behavior, it was found that “children pay most attention to television content that is only moderately discrepant from their existing knowledge and capabilities” (Murray & Murray 2008). While “loud noise, bright or fast visual changes in the display” were preferred by younger viewers, even though “these features also attracted the attention of the older viewers” the older children were attracted to the “non-salient content features such as moderate action by the characters, letters, and numbers and meaningful dialogue” (Murray & Murray 2008).

Q2.Identify and describe the types of educational materials the moderate-discrepancy hypothesis predicts are most likely to hold children’s attention.

This suggests that educational materials which are more novel in content yet still build off of infant’s current framework of knowledge are likely to hold infant’s attention, versus materials which are very similar or very dissimilar. For example, to teach colors, showing a young child a red ball (versus his or her favorite blue ball) will hold the infant’s attention. “The preference for novelty explains why infants learn about things only when they are ready to learn about them. They do not waste their time attending to completely familiar things, or to things so new that they are overwhelming” (Intelligence, n.d., What when how).

Q3.Discuss whether or not this prediction is consistent with the type of instruction that research in the sociocultural tradition has shown to be most effective.

The research literature indicates that culture mediates the interaction of this biological, developmental tendency in the brain. For example, “it has been suggested that cultural values of the community affect socio-emotional development through attentional dynamics of social reference (Rogoff et al., 1993). Maturational processes of brain-circuits have been found to mediate socio-cultural learning and the behavioral manifestation of cultural norms starting at preschool age” (Gavrilov et al. 2012: 286). In one research study of kindergarteners, the ability of children to exhibit joint attention on two different types of complex social phenomena in line with the moderate discrepancy hypothesis was affected by a number of variables, of which novelty was only one. “Analysis of variance indicated that the child’s initiation of JA toward the social partner was affected by all levels of cultural ecology (i.e., toy’s social load, adherence to tradition values, parental education, gender)” (Gavrilov et al. 2012: 286).

The moderate discrepancy factor is thus only one variable amongst many which may influence attention but it clearly has an influence on learning along with the child’s developmental age; the cultural context of the child (communitarian vs. individualistic); the upbringing of the child at home and also gender which has an effect upon the weight given to interpersonal relations as well as to the developmental stage of the child relative to age.


Gavrilov, Y. (et al. 2012). Socio-cultural effects on children’s initiation of joint attention. Front Human Neuroscience, 6: 286. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3480652/

Intelligence. (n.d.) What when how. Retrieved from:


Kidd, C. (et al. 2010). The Goldilocks Effect: Infants’ preference for stimuli that are neither too predictable nor too surprising. Mind Modeling. Retrieved from:


Murray, J. & Murray. A. (2008). Television in infancy and early childhood: uses and effects.

From Haith, M. & Benson, J.B.M. (Eds.). Encyclopedia of Infant and Early Childhood

Development. Oxford: Elsevier Publishers. Retrieved:


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