Emotional and Cognitive Development of Preschool Children: Overview of International and Russian Studies on Role of Dialectical Thinking in the Regulation of Affect and Recognition of Complex Feelings


The article contains an overview of studies on the problem of emotional and cognitive development of preschool children (43 papers, including 6 in Russian and 37 in English) conducted in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Spain, Germany, Norway, Russia, etc). Special attention is paid to works that consider the reflexive aspect of children’s experiences characterized by duality, inconsistency and multypositionality, which makes it possible to identify and trace the line of dialectical transformations based on preschool children’s emotional experiences. The following statements are formulated as key conclusions: (1) dialectical thinking can be considered as a cognitive mechanism necessary for the analysis of complex, ambivalent and hidden feelings; (2) the unit of cognitive and affective development is experience, which involves reliance on an internal dialectical structure; (3) a two-position perspective in the game activity is a condition for forming preschool children’s dialectical thinking operations, which in turn can become a cognitive mechanism for regulating affect; (4) the cognitive basis of the emotional anticipation phenomenon includes a mental action of changing the alternative, which is in the zone of proximal development of preschool children and allows adults to use it as a mechanism of emotional co-regulation; and (5) philosophical dialog practices, which imply a discussion of problematic-contradictory content with preschoolers and are aimed at forming in them such actions of dialectical thinking as transformation, mediation and change of alternatives. These provisions represent are an effective tool for developing the ability to distinguish dual complex feelings and analyze their causes and consequences. The results of the work can serve as a basis for creating and implementing conceptually new preschool education programs aimed at both the creative and emotional development of children, where dialectical thinking is considered, inter alia, as an ability necessary for regulating affect and helping children to experience and cope with complex conflicting feelings.

About the authors

Nikolay E. Veraksa

Moscow Lomonosov State University

Author for correspondence.
Email: neveraksa@gmail.com

Doctor of Psychological Sciences, Professor, is Professor at the Department of Educational Psychology and Pedagogy of the Faculty of Psychology

11 Mokhovaya St, Moscow, 125009, Russian Federation

Anastasia K. Belolutskaya

Moscow Lomonosov State University

Email: anastasiabel1981@gmail.com

Ph.D. in Psychology, is Senior Researcher at the Department of Educational Psychology and Pedagogy of the Faculty of Psychology

11 Mokhovaya St, Moscow, 125009, Russian Federation


  1. Agnoli, S., Mancini, G., Pozzoli, T., Baldaro, B., Russo, P.M., & Surcinelli, P. (2012). The interaction between emotional intelligence and cognitive ability in predicting scholastic performance in school-aged children. Personality and Individual Differences, 53, 660–665. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2012.05.020
  2. Albanese, O., De Stasio, S., Di Chiacchio, C., Fiorilli, C., & Pons, F. (2010). Emotion Understanding in Children: Impact of age and Intelligence. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 171, 101–115. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00221320903548084
  3. Aznar, A., & Tenenbaum H. R. (2013). Spanish Parents’ Emotion Talk and Their Children’s Understanding of Emotion. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 1–11. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00670
  4. Bassett, H.H., Denham, S., Mincic, M., & Graling, K. (2012). The structure of preschoolers' emotion knowledge: Model equivalence and validity using a structural equation modeling approach. Early Education and Development, 23, 259–279. http:// dx.doi.org/10.1080/10409289.2012.630825
  5. Blair, C., McKinnon, R.D., & Daneri, M.P. (2018). Effect of the tools of the mind kindergarten program on children’s social and emotional development. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 43, 52–61. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2018.01.002
  6. Carrick, N., & Quas, J.A. (2006). Effects of Discrete Emotions on Young Children’s Ability to Discern Fantasy and Reality. Developmental Psychology, 42, 1278–1288.
  7. Curby, T.W., Brown, C.A., Bassett, H.H., & Denham, S.A. (2015). Associations between preschoolers' social-emotional competence and preliteracy skills. Infant and Child Development, 24, 549–570. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/icd.1899
  8. De Rosnay, M., & Hughes, C. (2006). Conversation and Theory of Mind: Do Children Talk Their way to Social-Cognitive Understanding? British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 24, 7–37. http://dx.doi.org/10.1348/026151005X82901
  9. Denham, S.A., Bassett, H., Mincic, M., Kalb, S., Way, E., Wyatt, T., & Segal, Y. (2012). Social-emotional learning profiles of preschoolers' early school success: A person-centered approach. Learning and Individual Differences, 22, 178–189.
  10. Denham, S.A., Bassett, H.H., Zinsser, K., & Wyatt, T.M. (2014). How preschoolers' social-emotional learning predicts their early school success: Developing theory-promoting, competency-based assessments. Infant and Child Development, 23, 426–454. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/icd.1840
  11. Denham, S.A., Bassett, H.H., Way, E., Mincic, M., Zinsser, K., & Graling, K. (2012). Preschoolers' emotion knowledge: Self-regulatory foundations, and predictions of early school success. Cognition and Emotion, 26, 667–679. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2011.602049
  12. Diaz, A., Eisenberg, N., Valiente, C., VanSchyndel, S., Spinrad, T.L., Berger, R., Hernandez, M.M., Silva, K.M., & Southworth, J. (2017). Relations of positive and negative expressivity and effortful control to kindergarteners’ student – teacher relationship, academic engagement, and externalizing problems at school. Journal of Research in Personality, 67, 3–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2015.11.002
  13. Fleer, M., Rey, F.G., & Veresov, N. (2017). Perezhivanie, Emotions and Subjectivity Advancing Vygotsky’s Legacy. Springer.
  14. Galyer, T., & Evans, I. (2001). Pretend Play and the Development of Emotion Regulation in Preschool Children. Early Child Development and Care, 166, 93–108. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0300443011660108
  15. Gardner, D., Harris, P.L., Ohmoto, M., & Hamazaki, T. (1988). Japanese children’s understanding of the distinction between real and apparent emotion. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 11, 203–218.
  16. Giménez-Dasí, M., Quintanilla, L., Ojeda, V., & Lucas-Molina, B. (2017). Effects of a Dialogue-Based Program to Improve Emotion Knowledge in Spanish Roma Preschoolers. Infants & Young Children, 30, 3–16. http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/IYC.0000000000000086
  17. Goldstein, T.R., & Lerner, M.D. (2017). Dramatic pretend play games uniquely improve emotional control in young children. Developmental Science, 21(4), e12603. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.12603
  18. Graziano, P.A., Reavis, R.D., Keane, S.P., & Calkins, S.D. (2007). The role of emotion regulation in children’s early academic success. Journal of School Psychology, 45, 3–19.
  19. Grazzani, I., Ornaghi, V., & Riva Crugnola, C. (2015). Emotion Comprehension and Attachment: A Conversational Intervention with School-Aged Children. European Review of Applied Psychology, 65(6), 267–274. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.erap.2015.10.004
  20. Gross, D., & Harris, P.L. (1988). False beliefs about emotion: Young children’s understanding of misleading emotional displays. International Journal of Behavioural Development, 11, 475–488.
  21. Harris, P.L. (1999). Individual Differences in Understanding Emotion: the Role of Attachment Status and Psychological Discourse. Attachment and Human Development, 1(3). 307–324. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14616739900134171
  22. Hoffmann, J., & Russ, S. (2012). Pretend Play, Creativity, and Emotion Regulation in Children. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 6(2), 175–184. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0026299
  23. Les emotions a l’ecole. Sous la directions de Louise Lafortune, Pierre-Andre Doudin, Francisco Pons, Dawson R.Hancock. (2004). Quebec: Presses de L’Universite de Quebec.
  24. Molina, P., Bulgarelli, D., Henning, A., & Aschersleben, G. (2014). Emotion Understanding: A Cross-Cultural Comparison Between Italian and German Preschoolers. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 11, 592–607. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17405629.2014.890585
  25. Peskin, J. (1996). Guise and guile: Children’s understanding of narratives in which the purpose of pretense is deception. Child Development, 67, 1735–1751. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1131728
  26. Podzorova, E.L. (2007). Issledovanie osobennostei emotsionalno obraznogo predvoskhishheniya v doshkolnom vozraste pri reshenii poznavatelnykh zadaniii. Psikhologicheskaya nauka i obrazovanie, (5), 182–191 (in Russ.)
  27. Pons, F., Giménez-Dasí, M., Daniel, M., Auriac-Slusarczyk, E., Businaro, N., & Viana, K. (2019). Impact of a low-cost classroom dialogue-based intervention on preschool children’s emotion understanding. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 27, 630–646. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1350293X.2019.1651961
  28. Pons, F., & Harris, P.L. (2019). Children’s understanding of emotions or the “error” of Pascal. In V. LoBue, K. Perez-Edgar, & K. Buss (Eds.), Handbook of Emotional Development (pp. 431–449). Cham: Springer.
  29. Riegel, K. (1973). Dialectic operations: The final period of cognitive development. New Jersey: Educational Testing Service Princeton.
  30. Rocha, A., Roazzi, A., Da Silva, A., Candeias, A., Minervino, C., Roazzi, M., & Pons, F. (2015). Test of Emotion Comprehension: Exploring the Underlying Structure Through Confirmatory Factor Analysis and Similarity Structure Analysis. In A. Roazzi, B. Campello, & W. Bilsky (Eds.), Facet Theory: Searching for Structure in Complex Social, Cultural and Psychological Phenomena (pp. 66–84). Recife: Editora UFPE.
  31. Russ, S.W. & Kaugars, A.S. (2001). Emotion in Children's Play and Creative Problem Solving. Creativity Research Journal, 13(2), 211–219. http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/ S15326934CRJ1302_8
  32. Sidera, F., Serrat, E., Rostan, C., & Sanz-Torrent, M. (2011). Do Children Realize That Pretend Emotions Might Be Unreal? The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 172, 40–55. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00221325.2010.504761
  33. Sirotkina, T.Y. (2014). O nekotorykh osobennostyakh razvitiya mekhanizma emocionalnogo predvoskhishheniya rezultata u detei starshego doshkolnogo vozrasta s narusheniem slukha. Vestnik Cherepoveczkogo Gosudarstvennogo Universiteta, (5), 102–105 (In Russ.)
  34. Slot, P.L., Mulder, H., Verhagen, J., & Leseman, P.P.M. (2017). Preschoolers’ cognitive and emotional self-regulation in pretend play: Relations with executive functions and quality of play. Infant and Child Development, 26, e2038. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/icd.2038
  35. Tang, Y., Harris, P., Pons, F., Zou, H., Zhang, W., & Xu Q. (2018). The Understanding of Emotion among Young Chinese Children. International Journal of Behavioural Development, 42(5), 512–517. https://doi.org/10.1177/0165025417741366
  36. Tenenbaum, H. R., Visscher, P., Pons, F., & Harris, P. L. (2004). Emotion Understanding in Quechua Children from an Agro-Pastoralist Village. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 28, 471–478. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01650250444000225
  37. Tenenbaum, H.R., Alfieri, L., Brooks, P.J., Dunne, G. (2008). The Effects of Explanatory Conversations on Children’s Emotion Understanding. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 26, 249–263. http://dx.doi.org/.1348/026151007X231057
  38. Thompson, R.A. (2006). Conversation and Developing Understanding: Introduction to the Special Issue. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 52, 1–16. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/mpq.2006.0008
  39. Veraksa, N.E. Vozniknovenie i razvitie dialekticheskogo myshleniya u doshkolnikov. Doctor of Psychological Sciences Thesis. Moscow: Moscow Lomonosov State University, 1991. (In Russ.)
  40. Veraksa, N.E., & Zadadaev, S.A. (2017) Osnovaniya strukturnoj dialektiki. Vestnik MGPU. Seriya: Pedagogika i psixologiya, (3), 8–5. (In Russ.)
  41. Voltmer, K., & von Salisch, M. (2017). Three meta-analyses of children's emotion knowledge and their school success. Learning and Individual Differences, 59, 107–118. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2017.08.006
  42. Von Salisch, M., Haenel, M., & Freund, P.A. (2013). Emotion understanding and cognitive abilities in young children. Learning and Individual Differences, 26, 15–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2013.04.001
  43. Vygotsky, L.S. (2012). Ucheniya ob emotsiyakh. Moscow: Kniga po Trebovaniyu Publ., 2012. (In Russ.)
  44. Zaporozhecz, A.V. (1986). Izbrannye psikhologicheskie trudy. Moscow: Pedagogika Publ.

Copyright (c) 2021 Veraksa N.E., Belolutskaya A.K.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This website uses cookies

You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.

About Cookies