Description: Have you ever watched young preschool children play hiding games? When my children were younger and we were out for a walk through the neighbourhood we would occasionally take turns running a little bit ahead, “hiding” behind a tree and then “surprising” the other person as they caught up to the tree. What was always amusing however, was that when they were around 2 to 3 years of age they would often hide by running up to the tree leaning against it and covering their face but on the side of the tree facing the direction from which I was walking so what I saw was a small child in plain sight thinking they were hidden because his or her head was against the tree and their eyes were covered. As a developmental psychologist I knew that this was due to preschoolers tendencies to be somewhat egocentric, that is, they were confused about what others know when that is different than what the child him or herself knows. The reasoning was that once they figure out that other people have perspectives or points of view or simply “minds” that are somewhat independent of other minds that they can begin to better that into account and find more effective hiding places. So the belief has been that children are essentially trapped inside their own minds until they get this theory of mind stuff figured out. Does that make sense to you? Can you think of alternative explanation for what might be going on? After you have thought about that a little bit read through the article linked below and see what some recent research is suggesting by way of a new way to think about what’s going on in the minds of three-year-old children doing such bad jobs of hiding.
Source: Young children are terrible at hiding – psychologists have a new theory why, Henrike Moll and Allie Khalulyan, USC. The Conversation.
Date: November 17, 2016
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
So what do you think? What is surprising about the findings of the research that is being talked about in the linked article above is a suggestion that preschoolers are not at all egocentric and that this is reflected in the fact that they assume that the strategy of essentially hiding in plain sight with your eyes covered is perfectly effective and can be used by anyone to hide from anybody else regardless of their age. What the researchers are suggesting is that preschoolers believe that mutual regard or mutual engagement is fundamentally what “seeing” one another involves. Basically they are suggesting that if someone was hiding in plain sight with her eyes covered they can’t be seen by anybody especially not by preschoolers who are essentially looking right at them at the time. The researchers go on to suggest that “bad hiding” on the part of preschoolers might actually be correlated with the demonstration of higher levels of reciprocity in play and in conversation or in other forms of interaction involving turn taking and could actually be a marker of distinctly positive development.
Questions for Discussion:
- What do we mean what we say that a child hiding with her head against a tree and with their back facing towards us is behaving in an egocentric manner?
- Can you think of other situations where preschoolers behave in ways that could also be described as egocentric?
- What alternative explanations for this “egocentric” behaviour when children are hiding have the researchers wrote the linked article above offered us? What might the implications of this alternative explanation be for some of the other areas in which preschoolers appear to behave egocentrically?
References (Read Further):
Russell, J., Gee, B., & Bullard, C. (2012). Why do young children hide by closing their eyes? Self-visibility and the developing concept of self. Journal of Cognition and Development, 13(4), 550-576. http://www.psychol.cam.ac.uk/cdcl/russellgeebullardinpress.pdf
Moll, H., & Khalulyan, A. (2016). “Not See, not Hear, not Speak”: Preschoolers Think They Cannot Perceive or Address Others Without Reciprocity. Journal of Cognition and Development, (just-accepted). http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15248372.2016.1243116
Preopertional thinking http://www.simplypsychology.org/preoperational.html
Kesselring, T., & Müller, U. (2011). The concept of egocentrism in the context of Piaget’s theory. New Ideas in Psychology, 29(3), 327-345. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Thomas_Kesselring/publication/229290641_The_concept_of_egocentrism_in_the_context_of_Piaget’s_theory/links/571f52e808aed056fa233438.pdf