Social interaction and cognitive growth: an examination through the role-taking skills of deaf and hearing children

Christine Howe, M. Howely

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    Recent research using theory-of-mind tasks has rekindled interest in the possibility that social interaction makes a significant contribution to cognitive development. It is proposed here that this contribution may be most pronounced with phenomena that, like belief or affective states, are internal and abstract. A more modest contribution is envisaged with phenomena that are overt and perceptible. The proposal is explored via comparison of deaf and hearing children's ability to engage in affective and perceptual role-taking, since the aspects of social interaction that have been implicated in cognitive development are known to be problematic for deaf children. Therefore, the proposal of more marked consequences for internal and abstract phenomena leads to the hypothesis that deaf children should lag behind hearing children on affective role-taking, while showing little or no difference on perceptual role-taking. The hypothesis was tested in two studies, one involving 10 deaf children and 10 hearing children aged 6.94- 8.93 years and the other involving 25 deaf children and 20 hearing children aged 5.08- 11.58 years. In both studies, affective role-taking was examined using a task developed from Chandler (1973), while perceptual role-taking was examined via an extension of Hughes and Donaldson's (1979) hiding task. The results provide consistent support for the hypothesis, and patterns of correlation between age, affective performance and perceptual performance give clues to the relevant developmental mechanisms.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)219-243
    Number of pages24
    JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004


    • cognitive development
    • deaf children
    • hearing children
    • social interaction
    • psychology
    • development


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