A Review of Bruner and Sherwood's Study of Peek-a-Boo

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“A REVIEW OF BRUNER AND SHERWOOD’S STUDY OF PEEKABOO” - Laiba Khanani

“Humans are social animals”. This phrase broadly describes the human behavior and its effect on their development process. One tends to make their lives worth living by experiencing different activities that help them grow. These activities cater humans to strengthen their capabilities and skills.

The main aim of this review article is to introduce the concept of “peek-a-boo” and its mere importance as a game in the development process of a child. Peek-a-boo is a fundamental game which manipulates the infant’s hold on ‘object permanence’ which refers to the ability to be acquainted with the persistent existence of an object even when it is out of sight. The review also includes the analytical evaluation of the concept of peek-a-boo itself. As a simple game of disappearance and reappearance that has always been a part of every infant’s childhood, it has its own strengths and weaknesses which evaluate the methodologies and different viewpoints regarding the game itself. Moreover, the review also focuses on the critical analysis of the different theories of child development put down by various researchers such as Piaget (1980), Vygotsky (1896) and Darwin (1809) with respect to the theory by Jerome Bruner (1977).

The article by Bruner and Sherwood describes a proper study which observed six infants whose age varied from 7 to 17 months, for over a period of 10 months. The design of the study was set such as to make sure that the mother and infant were seen once a fortnight in a laboratory. The mothers were asked about the games that they and their infant enjoyed playing the most. One mother daughter dyad was concentrated on which lasted for 22 episodes. The experiment was started by vocalized or face to face contact and the sessions of the mother and child were videotaped where analysis was carried out on video records. The experiment consisted of three rounds that were played where the concept of “object permanence” was demonstrated. The first round was the attention-focusing round where contact between child and the mother was made by means of vocalization or face to face contact. Consequently, the second round was the actual act of hiding. In this round, either the mother or the child was hidden first which initiated the game of peek-a-boo. Finally, the third round which was considered to be the most critical round was when uncovering and reappearance was the key task. This is when the child started unmasking the mother as soon as she was recognized.

Critically, the article itself describes some of the theorists such as Charlesworth (1996) who proposed that position and the location in which a face has disappeared is the main factor due to which a child can keep track of the unexpected disappearance and reappearance. Prior to that, Greenfield (1970) built up on this idea saying that the voice of the mother affects the child’s response to the unexpected disappearance and reappearance. She believed that the voice of the mother provided great help and support to the child to familiarize to unknown settings. These theorists have shown their point of view on the game peek-a-boo itself which are related in one way or the other as both explain factors that affect the response of the infant.

Peek-a-boo, considered to be a simple experiment highlights an easy observable fact and demonstrates a general activity that is and has always been a part of every child’s childhood shows the commendable work put down by Bruner and Sherwood. It explains the way a child runs his/her mind at a very early age which proves the strength of its existence as a segment of every infant’s childhood. Moreover, as the experiment proceeds, the researchers have shown how the child listens to instructions and conforms to the rules of the experiment that are explained to her by her mother. This explains the child’s positive response to directives and how she interprets it...
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