Developmental effects of economic and educational change: Cognitive representation in three generations across 43 years in a Maya community

Ashley E. Maynard, Patricia M. Greenfield, Carla P. Childs
Published Online:
14 Jan 2015
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 50 Issue 1

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We studied the implications of social change for cognitive development in a Maya community in Chiapas, Mexico, over 43 years. The same procedures were used to collect data in 1969–1970, 1991, and 2012—once in each generation. The goal was to understand the implications of weaving, schooling and participation in a commercial economy for the development of visual pattern representation. In 2012, our participants consisted of 133 boys and girls descended from participants in the prior two generations. Procedures consisted of placing colored sticks in a wooden frame to make striped patterns, some familiar (Zinacantec woven patterns) and some novel (created by the investigators). Following Greenfield (2009), we hypothesised that the development of commerce and the expansion of formal schooling would influence children's representations. Her theory postulates that these factors move human development towards cognitive abstraction and skill in dealing with novelty. Furthermore, the theory posits that whatever sociodemographic variable is changing most rapidly functions as the primary motor for developmental change. From 1969 to 1991, the rapid development of a commercial economy drove visual representation in the hypothesised directions. From 1991 to 2012, the rapid expansion of schooling drove visual representation in the hypothesised directions.

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