Research in cognitive development, social cognition, and child psychology lends further insight into what healthy cognitive functioning looks like. The unrealistic optimism and self-confidence apparent in well-adjusted adults has also been found in healthy children. Studies have compared "helpless" and "mastery-oriented'' children in their responses to failure. Mastery-oriented children are those who have a sense of control over an experimental task; helpless children have no such sense of control. Mastery-oriented children were less discouraged by failure than were helpless children. In fact, they did not seem to recognize that they had failed. Instead, they focused on how to overcome defeat. In addition, they expected success in the future and attributed success to their own ability. They exemplified the nondepressed explanatory style articulated by the learned helplessness model of depression. In contrast, the helpless children demonstrated an explanatory style that may be a cognitive vulnerability to depression.
The adaptive explanatory style may not be exclusive to confident children, but may be the rule for all very young children. Some developmental psychologists report that learned helplessness is relatively rare in very young children. They review studies that demonstrate that children around 3 years of age typically overestimate their skills on a wide variety of tasks and have unrealistically positive expectations for success. This may be highly adaptive for the same reason it is adaptive in adults: self-efficacy motivates further action. Unrealistic optimism gives young children the opportunity to try new skills and to practice them. Researchers hypothesize that ignorance of their limitations allows children to try more diverse and complex behaviors that exceed their grasp at the present time. This allows them to practice skills and may foster long-term cognitive benefits.
Kendall's research in cognitive - behavior therapy with children has identified two types of thinking errors in children, cognitive deficiencies and cognitive distortions. Cognitive deficiencies refer to an absence of thinking. Youngsters with such deficiencies lack careful information processing and often act without thinking. Impulsivity is a result of cognitive deficiencies. Cognitive distortions occur among those who engage in information processing, but who do so in a biased or dysfunctional way. Depressed and anxious children demonstrate cognitive distortions in their misperceptions of social and environmental situations and in their self-perceptions. Children with aggressive behavior demonstrate both cognitive deficiencies and cognitive distortions, because they overinterpret signs of hostility and react without careful thought. Targeting cognitive deficiencies in therapy requires stopping nonthoughtful activity and channeling activity into problem solving. Targeting cognitive distortions calls for the identification of faulty thinking and the correc
Cognitive Therapy tion of misperceptions, misattributions, and misinterpretations.
Both developmental theory and clinical studies support the notion that particular types of cognitive distortions are to be expected at certain stages of normal development. For example, dichotomous thinking and overgeneralization emerge in the preoperational stage of cognitive development. Dichotomous thinking is also viewed as characteristic of normal adolescent thinking. However, these natural proclivities may interact with maladaptive schemas and persist into adulthood.
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Do you suffer from a habit or a behavior or a repetitive thought pattern that keeps you from being who you want to be? Do you try to change this or that aspect of your life, but wind up right back where you started? You're not alone! Millions of Americans try to make changes, but the whopping majority fail exceptionally.