Friday, July 20, 2007

An Investigation into Perspective Taking Skills

"Children believe that animals understand them and that they can share some of their problems with animals. Animals unconditionally love children without judging them so children can easily share their daily problems with animals"

An Investigation into the Perspective Taking Skills of 6-Year-Old Children in Terms of Pet Feeding and Gender Variables by Aysel Koksal Akyol and Vuslat O uz. In Humanity & Social Sciences Journal 2 (1): 08-13, 2007

Paper available online.

Abstract This research has been designed in order to investigate the perspective taking skills of 6-year-old children in terms of the variables ‘pet feeding at home’ and ‘gender’. 100 six-year-old children attending nursery schools participated in the research. Data were collected through a “Personal Information Form” and the “Perspective Taking Test”. In analyzing the data, t-test was applied. As a result of the analysis, it has been determined that the status of pet feeding has an impact on the perceptional perspective taking skills of children (p<0.05) and the gender of the child has an impact on the cognitive perspective taking skills (p<0.01). Consequently, some recommendations have been made.

This paper presents the potential of a pet, as a companion for a child, transitioning from stuffed animals to communicating with others and supporting the child's emotional development. Communication with pets can be mainly non-verbal so that children with communication difficulty progress with pets. Also a study demonstrated the important correlation between the level of the relationship of children with their pets and their level of empathy.

The authors present a comprehensive definition for perspective taking
Perspective taking skills are formed from perceptional (to be aware of what another person sees), cognitive (to be aware of what another person thinks) and emotional (to be aware of how another feels) elements(...) Perspective taking is also defined as the emotional reactions shared in the experience of the child against the emotional reactions of the other person. Perspective taking includes both cognitive understanding of another person’s experience (playing a role) and the emotional understanding of another person’s emotional situation (experiencing). A person with the perspective taking ability can feel the other’s emotions after defining his emotion and perspective partially

The study in this research involved 100 and 6-year-old children. Children take the “Perspective Taking Test (Perceptional Perspective Taking Test, Cognitive Perspective Taking Test, Emotional Perspective Taking Test)” and parents take the Personal Information Form and the Empathetic Skills Scale. In the results, the empathy points of pet feeding children are higher. In children’s interaction with animals, their being able to put themselves in the animal’s place is important for them to understand whether the animal is hungry or not, whether they are hurt or not, or else whether they want to be taken care of or not. The perceptional perspective skills of pet feeding children may have resulted high for this reason.

They conclude that the communication skills of pet feeding children improve and their perspective taking skills are affected positively. They propose that parents support the love and interest of their child to their pet. Children’s love for animals can be developed through visual mass communication tools and the media, by allocating more space for animal related publications and broadcasting.
Based on this result, I wander if children playing with Tamagotchi perform better at empathy, unless the attribution of feelings to a character that is virtual kind of mix the cards ...

I am particularly interested in the subject of perspective taking. Studying perspective taking in discourse structure as well as social perspective, I designed from 2000-2002 a computational toy to enhance narrative perspective-taking. The most fascinated finding in the part of this research on social perspective taking, is that children benefited from the technological toy in reflecting on their hypothesis about their environment, about people, about their personal experiences. I discovered there was a huge potential in computing toys for comforting children in their natural discoveries. Technology cannot replace human or pets interrelationship, but it has the advantage to be neither of these and just offer children fun, authorship and feedback on their creation. In this process a mechanism can be designed to reinforce a particular cognitive skill.

I later designed video systems for children to share creations with one another using video game controllers in a public museum space. Computational tools for adults and children to perform videos in real time using their video database, as well as sms'ing in the public space using a community video database, and a tangible system for remote communities to create, edit, perform and share video creations.
The power of video is immense, it is the witness of an event. I am now researching on the relationship with perspective taking between personal video and personal voice using tangible materials.

Picture extracted from my thesis Dolltalk: A computational toy to enhance narrative perspective-taking. Thesis available online

Dolltalk (2000)
I created DollTalk to help young children take different perspectives during storytelling play. The child tells his/her story to an animated computer character, using two stuffed animals as props while their story is recorded. The stuffed animals contain accelerometers that monitor the movement of those toys; statistical analysis of children's play with props allows the system to assume that if a toy is being shaken, then the child is narrating a story segment associated with that toy. The system also computes different types of motions, from a single toy being shaken, to multiple ones and their frequencies over time. In parallel, the system analyzes the speech of the child. The combination of sound and gestural parameters analysis allows Dolltalk to determine the structure of the narration: from a dialog to a narrator voice, this to offer adequate interaction. In Dolltalk "easy mode", when the child is done telling a story, the recorded audio is played back with two different pitches to signify the stuffed animal that was speaking at the time. In a more "advanced mode", the story is played back using a narrator voice and offers different understandings for the same story using the storyline of the child.

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