TOP > About Child Science > Kodomogaku Kotohazime (1998-2000) > Cultural Factors as a Source of Information: Children may be "programmed", but they certainly are not "robots"


Cultural Factors as a Source of Information: Children may be "programmed", but they certainly are not "robots"

In the last two messages, I mentioned that children are born with a "program" that automatically kicks in at birth to facilitate the functioning of the various systems and organs in the human body. Some who have read these previous messages, may say that it sounds as if I think of children as robots. In fact, in this message, I would like to talk about how children, even if they are born with these programs, are not at all like robots. That is, children are able to take in various pieces of information from their daily environment and use them to change their original program. The complex nature of the nervous and psychological system of the brain and its programs to make the systems in function allows humans to build upon their culture and civilization by processing various kinds of information available to them in their immediate surroundings.

In the previous message, I mentioned memory as a program of the heart. To elaborate on this point further, this process involves an accumulation of various pieces of information taken in by each individual. I believe the program allows the individual to utilize accumulated information to solve each moment's challenges. Due to stimuli either from within one's own thinking process or from an outside source, the program is set into motion and the nerve cells begin their journey of the network system, which in turn allows the individual to make various inductions and deductions of a situation and come to a conclusion about that moment.

Even a baby who imitates an adult's actions uses this same processing system. One or two weeks after birth, if you hold a baby facing you and begin to talk and make eye contact, you will be able to build a momentarily trusting relationship with the baby. If you slowly stick your tongue out, the baby will stare at you and slowly begin to move his/her lips and stick out his/her tongue out the lips. We can conclude that this is a form of imitation behavior of the newborn. However, I do admit that there remains some debate as to whether deductive reasoning in the newborn and the older child follows the same process. Nevertheless, clearly in the infant's case, the brain takes in information from his/her surroundings and from the trigger system of the nervous system, allows the infant to imitate.

The significance of modifying one's own program is clear when reviewing these actions of memory, deduction and thought. It also becomes clear when you watch a newborn's behavioral development while s/he is watching television or a toddler learning to talk. Language development is critical because it allows the child to communicate with the outside world. I will leave this subject for my next message, but today I would like to discuss the baby's behavioral development in terms of television watching.

When the child is just born, s/he seems indifferent to the television. However, within a month, the newborn begins to turn to the sounds of the television and look at the screen. When the baby is able to sit, s/he will stare at the screen and when crawling, will actually move towards the television. When s/he reaches about a year, s/he will be walking around and start to explore in back of the television and sometimes even lick different parts of the television. The child will then begin to imitate the parents or older siblings in learning how to turn on the television and will eventually be able to select a program of choice. At around two years old, the child will start to imitate the actions of the characters in the television program and perhaps dance to the music coming from the TV. Indeed, the child is an "information seeker", imitating how to use the television properly, learning and remembering how to utilize this appliance.

I will give one more example here. When you press the newborn's foot against a hard board, the baby moves his/her feet as a reflex. This is called the Stepping Reflex, and the actions are the same as when the baby learns how to walk. Thus, we can assume this is another kind of program which is the walking program. If the baby is healthy -- because he still does not have the cognitive ability to process his surroundings in dimensions and does not have enough muscular development to hold his/her own weight -- this program is switched off. A year after birth, the program is switched back on and the child is now able to walk properly. There is hardly any need to instruct the child when learning to walk. On the other hand, when the child is in Pre-School or Kindergarten, specific types of walking such as skipping and dancing are learned through deduction and practice. These specific types of information are learned through gathering and adding the various information needed to learn to walk. It is critical to note that the individual differences that can be seen in the development of each child's learning process (explained by the complex nervous system, etc.) is due to the inborn genetic makeup of the child. Any educator can attest to being a witness of this phenomenon.

The human is unique because we possess this individualized program. This can be explained by genetics and also the power to modify these programs from the varied ways we process the information and situations we encounter.
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