2. Discuss how social and environmental variables may affect cognitive development




Social Variables

SES is a total measure of a personís social and economic position based on income, education, and occupation. SES has been found to correlate with parenting (social variable) and environmental enrichment (environmental variable). Farah et al. (2005) found that low SES children performed worse on all tests of cognitive performance compared to middle SES children.





Environmental Variables

Animal research suggests that there is a specific relationship between early experience and brain development. Research showed that manipulating environmental variables, such as toys and other animals to play with, influenced the number of neurons as well as the animalís behavior (see Rosenzweig Bennet).  Animal research has also demonstrated that stress (e.g. due to maternal separation) interferes with normal brain development. This kind of research cannot take place using humans for ethical reasons.

It is perhaps not possible to generalize directly to humans from animal research but it is possible to measure some of the same naturally occurring variables in human experiences (e.g. neglect and institutionalization) known to be related to cognitive function.

Farah et al. (2008)

Aim To investigate the relationship between environmental stimulation and parental nurturance on cognitive development.






There was a positive correlation between environmental stimulation and language development. Age was also a factor. There was also a positive correlation between parental nurturance and long-term memory performance.