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Lecture 4

PSYC 223 Lecture 4: Textbook chapter 2

Course Code
Tara Vongpaisal

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Piaget repeatedly performed this experiment, covering a toy with a washcloth while the
baby does nothing, with young infants and concluded that infants younger than 8 months
lacked object permanence, or a child’s understanding that an object continues to exist
even when it can no longer be observed directly
If an infant watches a rotating solid plank pass through a spot where they think a solid
object is sitting, an impossible event, they look at this event for a long time, longer than if
the plank is instead blocked by the object, a possible event. This allowed researchers to
find evidence that 5 month old infants do have a representation of objects, even when
those objects are out of sight
Piaget believed that children spent some period of time in a given stage with an
unchanging set of skills, and that they rather suddenly moved into a new stage,
exhibiting a whole array of new skills in a number of areas more or less at once
He saw radical qualitative changes rather than continuous quantitative changes
According to Piaget, children everywhere moved through the stages in the same order.
There would never be any backtracking or skipping of stages
the first stage is called the sensorimotor stage from birth to approximately 2 years of
age. Piaget emphasized the use of motor activity and physical interaction for knowledge
acquisition. Early language development starts during this stage. Object permanence
develops at around 8 months of age
The second stage is called the preoperational stage from 2 years of age to around 7
years of age. Cognitive development is rapid and the development of pretend or
symbolic play. Children in this stage understand past and future, but knowledge is still
very egocentric and very concrete
The third stage is called the concrete operational stage from 7 to 11 years of age.
Children begin to understand and use symbols. Thinking is less egocentric, and children
understand concrete operations but not yet abstract or formal operations
The fourth and final stage is called the formal operational stage in early adolescence,
from age 12 to throughout adulthood. People in this stage are adept at using symbols
and can relate them to abstract concepts. Can think about multiple variables to predict
outcomes and can formulate hypotheses about either concrete or abstract relationships
Piaget described three sources of developmental change: assimilation, accommodation,
and equilibration
Assimilation: the process of interpreting new information in terms of previously
understood theories and knowledge
when someone hears something new, they can translate it into information that
makes sense
Accommodation: the process of changing one’s current theory, understanding, or
knowledge in order to cope with new information
this is the learning process, and the process by which a child may develop new
Equilibration: the process of balancing assimilation and accommodation in order to
maintain a stable understanding of the world while still allowing for development
Piaget greatly underestimated the cognitive competence of infants and children
Piaget relied on children’s ability to explicitly report their own understandings
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The stage model in overstated. Piaget thought that a child’s stage determined modes of
thinking in a wide number of domains and that thinking was consistent until the child
moved into a new stage
More recent research shows more variability across domains
Piaget’s underestimation of the importance of social and emotional contributions to
development. His focus was on cognitive development and on the child’s own interaction
with the physical world as the impetus for cognitive change
A second theoretical perspective is the associationist perspective, which encompasses
learning theories in general and social learning theory as well
Associationist perspective: an approach that encompasses learning theories in general
and social learning theory as well. This perspective suggests that people have only
general-purpose learning mechanisms, allowing them to associate one stimulus with
another. Other than these associationist learning mechanisms, the newborn mind is a
blank slate
Locke’s empiricist perspective emphasized the role of experience in development and
knowledge acquisition
Human behaviour, in this view, is best understood and explained as a result of
experiences a person has had in their lifetime.
More contemporary adherents to this viewpoint expect that development and learning
are a result of a very few, very general purpose learning mechanisms, such as classical
and operant conditionings
Classical conditioning is a form of learning associated with the work of Ivan Pavlov
Classical conditioning: a learning process in which a neutral stimulus comes to be
associated with a naturally motivating stimulus so that each evokes the same response
Unconditioned stimulus: In classical conditioning, the stimulus that elicits a response
before any training has taken place
Unconditioned response: In classical conditioning, the response that follows the
presentation of the unconditioned stimulus
Conditioned stimulus: In classical conditioning, the stimulus with which the
unconditioned stimulus has been associated and which elicits a response after training
has taken place
Conditioned response: In classical conditioning, the response to the conditioned stimulus
once training has taken place
John B Watson was very much an empiricist and believed that a child’s behaviour and
development was best explained by his or her experiences in life
To demonstrate the power of conditioning in young children with his “Little
This conditioning approach can be used for systematic desensitization, a treatment in
which people who have unwanted fears and phobias are exposed to the object of fear.
The object is paired with a reward. After repeated exposure, the object is no longer
Operant conditioning: a type of learning in which a specific behaviour becomes more or
less likely as a result of rewards or punishments
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Learning theorists see operant conditioning as playing a major role in child development
and potentially child rearing.
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