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Chapter 6 – Cognitive Development: Piagetian, Core Knowledge, and Vygotskian Perspectives

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Ella Daniel

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Chapter 6 – Cognitive Development: Piagetian, Core Knowledge, and Vygotskian Perspectives Introduction • Cognition refers to the inner processes and products of the mind that lead to “knowledge” • It includes all mental activity—attending, remembering, symbolizing, categorizing, etc. • Chart the typical course of development, examine individual differences, and uncover the mechanisms of cognitive development • Children move from simpler to more complex cognitive skills, becoming more effective thinkers with age Piaget’s Cognitive-Developmental Theory • Human infants, out of their perceptual and motor activities, build and refine psychological structures—organized ways of making sense of experience that permit them to adapt more effectively to the environment • Children develop these structures actively using current structures to select and interpret experiences • Piaget viewed children as discovering or constructing, virtually all knowledge about their world through their own activity, his theory is described as a constructivist approach to cognitive development Basic Characteristics of Piaget’s Stages • Four stages—sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational • The stages provide a general theory of development, in which all aspects of cognition change in an integrated fashion • The stages are invariant; they always occur in a fixed order, and no stage can be skipped • The stages are universal; they are assumed to characterize children everywhere • Individual differences in genetic and environmental factors affect the speed with which children move through the stages Piaget’s Ideas about Cognitive Change • Specific psychological structures called schemes—organized ways of making sense of experience—change with age • Mental representations—internal depictions of information that the mind can manipulate • Most powerful representation are images—mental pictures of objects, people, and spaces—and concepts, categories in which similar objects or events are grouped together • Adaptation • Adaptation involves building schemas through direct interaction with the environment • During assimilation, we use our current schemes to interpret the external world • In accommodation, we create new schemas or adjust old ones after noticing that our current way of thinking does not capture the environment completely • When children are not changing much, they assimilate more than they accommodate—a steady, comfortable state that Piaget called cognitive equilibrium • During the times of rapid cognitive change, children are in a state of disequilibrium • Piaget’s term for this back-and-forth movement between equilibrium and disequilibrium is equilibration • Organization • Aprocess that occurs internally, apart from direct contact with the environment. • Once children form new schemes, they rearrange them, linking them with other schemas to create a strongly interconnected cognitive system • Schemes truly reach equilibrium when they become part of a broad network of structures that can be jointly applied to the surrounding world The Sensorimotor Stage: Birth to 2 Years • The sensorimotor stage spans the first two years of life • Infants and toddlers “think” with their eyes, ears, hands, and other sensorimotor equipment • They cannot yet carry out many activities mentally • The circular reaction provides a special means of adapting their first schemes • It involves stumbling onto a new experience caused by the baby’s own motor activity • As the infants tries to repeat the event again and again, a sensorimotor response that originally occurred by chance strengthens into a new scheme • Immaturity in inhibition seems to be adaptive, helping to ensure that new skills will not be interrupted before they strengthen Sensorimotor Development • Piaget saw newborn reflexes as the building blocks of sensorimotor intelligence • Repeating Chance Behaviours • Around 1 month, as babies enter Substage 2, they start to gain voluntary control over their actions through the primary circular reaction, by repeating chance behaviours largely motivated by basic needs • During Substage 3, from 4 to 8 months, infants sit up and become skilled at reaching for and manipulating objects--motor achievements that strengthen the secondary circular reaction, through which they to repeat interesting events in the surrounding environment that are caused by their own actions • Intentional Behaviour –by 8-12 month, Substage 4 • Intentional, or goal-directed, behaviour, coordinating schemes deliberately to solve simple problems • Regarded these means-end action sequences as the foundation for all problem solving • Object permanence, the understanding that objects continue to exist when they are out of sight—but this awareness is not yet complete • Babies still make theA-no-B search error: if they reach several times for an object at one hiding place (A), then see it moved to another (B), they still search for it in the first hiding place (A) • Infants in Substage 4, who can better anticipate events, sometimes use their capacity for intentional behaviour to try to change those events • In Substage 5, the tertiary circular reaction, in which toddlers repeat behaviours with variation, emerges • Mental Representation • In Substage 6, sensorimotor development culminates in mental representation • One sign of this capacity is that 18- to 24-month-olds arrive at solutions to problems suddenly rather than through trial-and-error behaviour, apparently experimenting with actions inside their heads • Also enables older toddlers to solve advanced object-permanence problems involving invisible displacement—finding a toy moved while out of sight, such as into a small box under a cover • Permits deferred imitation—the ability to remember and copy the behaviour of models who are not present • Makes make-believe play possible, in which children act out every day and imaginary activities Follow-up Research on Infant Cognitive Development • Violation-of-expectation method—may habituate babies to a physical event (expose them to event until their looking declines) to familiarize them with a situation in which their knowledge will be tested. Or they may simply show babies an expected event (one that follows physical laws) and an unexpected event (a variation of the first event that violates physical laws). Heightened attention to the unexpected even suggests that the infant is “surprised” by a deviation from physical reality—and therefore, is aware of the aspect of the physical world • Object permanence • Found evidence for object permanence in the first few months of life • Infants look longer at a wide variety of unexpected events involving hidden objects • Violation-of-expectation tasks require only that the baby react (through looking) to whether a post-object-hiding scene accords with ordinary experience • Around this age, toddlers also know that objects continue to exist in their hidden locations after the babies have left the location • Searching for objects hidden in more than on location • Once 8- to 12-month-olds search for hidden objects, they make theA-not- B search error • For example, between 6 and 12 months, infants increasingly look at the correct location, even while reaching incorrectly • Some evidence suggests that 8- to 12-month olds search atA(where they found the object on previous reaches) instead of B (its most recent location) because they have trouble inhibiting a previously rewarded motor response • Amore comprehensive explanation is that a complex, dynamic system of factors—having built a habit or reaching toward • They must perceive an object’s identity by integrating feature and movement information, distinguish the object from the barrier concealing it and the surface on which it rests , keep track of the object’s whereabouts, and use this knowledge to obtain the object • Mental representation • 8-to 10-month-olds ability to recall the location of hidden objects after delays of more than a minute, and 14-month olds’ recall after delays of a far or more, indicate that babies construct mental representations of objects and their whereabouts • Deferred and inferred imitation • Under these conditions, a great deal must be known about the infants daily life to be sure that deferred imitation—which requires infants to represent a model’s past behaviour—has occurred • As motor capacities improve, infants copy actions with objects • Infants can form flexible mental representations that include chains of relevant associations • Toddlers even imitate rationally, by inferring others’ intentions • They adapt their imitative acts to a model’s goals • Between 14 and 18 months, toddlers become increasingly adept at imitating actions an adult tries to produce, even if these are not fully realized • By age 2, children mimic entire social roles—Mommy, Daddy, baby— during make-believe play • Infants skill at engaging in goal-directed actions—reaching for objects at 3 to 4 months, pointing to objects at 9 months—predicts their awareness of an adult’s similar behaviour as goal-directed in a violation-of-expectation task • Categorization • Even young infants can categorize, grouping similar objects and events into a single representation—an ability that is incompatible with a strictly sensorimotor approach to the world • Categorization reduces the enormous amount of new information infants encounter every day, helping them learn and remember • Similar studies reveal that in the first few months, babies categorize stimuli on the basis of shape, size, and other physical properties • Ability to categorize using clusters of features prepares babies for acquiring many complex everyday categories • Sort people and their voices by gender and age have begun to distinguish emotional expressions, can separate people’s natural actions from other motions, and expect people to move spontaneously • As they gain experience in comparing to-be-categorizing items in varied ways and as their store of verbal labels expands, toddlers start to categorize flexibility • Realize that whereas animates are self-propelled and therefore have varied paths of movement, inanimates move only when acted on, in highly restricted ways • One view holds that older infants and toddlers categorize more effectively because they become increasingly sensitive to fine-grained perceptual features and to stable relations among these features • Alternative view is that before the end of the first year, babies undergo a fundamental shift from a perceptual to a conceptual basis for constructing categories, increasingly grouping objects by their common function or behaviour • Variations among languages lead to cultural differences in development of categories • Problem solving • Analogical problem solving—applying a solution strategy from one problem to other relevant problems • Findings suggest that at the end of the first year, infants form flexible mental representations of how to use tools to get objects • With age, children become better at reasoning by analogy, generalizing across increasingly dissimilar situations • Symbolic understanding • Realization that words can be used to cue mental images of things not physically present—a symbolic capacity called displaced reference that emerges around the first birthday • The more experience toddlers have with an object and its verbal label, the more likely they are to call up a mental representation when they hear the object’s name • The capacity to use language as a flexible symbolic tool—to modify an existing mental representation—improves from the end of the second into the third year • Awareness of the symbolic function of pictures also emerges in the second year • Even after coming to appreciate the symbolic nature of pictures, young children continue to have difficulty grasping the distinction between some pictures and their referents Evaluation of the Sensorimotor Stage • Infants anticipate events, actively search for hidden objects, display an accurateA-B search, flexibly vary their sensorimotor schemes, engage in make-believe play, and treat pictures and video images symbolically within • Yet other capacities—including secondary circular reactions, first problem solving by analogy, and displaced reference of words-emerge earlier than Piaget expected • Researchers now believe that young babies have some built-in cognitive equipment for making sense of experience The Preoperational Stage: 2 to 7 Years • Spans from 2 to 7 years—most obvious change is an extraordinary increase in representational, or symbolic, activity Advances in Mental Representation • Language is our most flexible means of mental representation • Sensorimotor activity leads to internal images of experience, which children then label with words • Make-believe play • Through pretending, children practice and strengthen newly acquired representational schemes • Development of make-believe play • Play detaches from the real-life conditions associated with it—in early pretending, children use only realistic objects—a toy telephone to talk into • Gradually they can imagine objects and events, without any support from the real world • By age 3, they understand that an object can take on different fictional identities • Play becomes less self-centered—children direct pretend actions towards people or objects • Play includes more complex combinations of schemes • Sociodramatic play—the make-believe with others that is under way by the end of the second year and increases rapidly in complexity during early childhood • By age 4 to 5, children build on one another’s play ideas • Benefits of make-believe: • Contributes to child cognitive and social skills • Sociodramatic play is seen as more socially competent • Strengthens mental abilities • Children with imaginary companions often display more complex and imaginative pretend play and produce elaborate narratives • Drawings • Realization that pictures can serve as symbols, improved planning and spatial understanding, and the emphasis that the child’s culture places on artistic expression • From scribbles to pictures • Scribbles—children’s intended representation is contained in their gestures rather than in the resulting marks on the page • First representational forms—around age 3, scribbles start to become pictures • Amajor milestone occurs when children use lines to represent the boundaries of objects • More realistic drawings—greater realism in drawing develops gradually, as perception, language, memory and fine motor skills improve • Use of depth cues increases during middle childhood • Cultural variations in development of drawing • In cultures with rich artistic traditions, children create elaborate drawings that reflect the conventions of their culture • In cultures with little interest in art, even older children and adolescents produce only simple forms • Symbol-real-world relations • Preschoolers must realize that each symbol corresponds to something specific in everyday life • Dual representation—viewing a symbolic object as both an object in its own right and a symbol • Exposing young children to diverse symbols—picture books, photos, drawings, models, make-believe, and maps—helps them appreciate that one object can stand for another Limitations of Preoperational Thought • Operations—mental representations of actions that obey logical rules • Young children’s thinking is rigid, limited to one aspect of a situation at a time, and strongly influenced by the way things appear at the moment • Egocentric andAnimistic thinking • Egocentrism—failure to distinguish other’s symbolic viewpoints from one’s own • Tend to focus on their own viewpoint and assume that others think, perceive and feel the same way they do • Animistic thinking—the belief that inanimate objects have lifelike qualities, such as thoughts, wishes, feelings • Prevents them from accommodating, or reflecting on and revising their faulty reasoning in response to the world • Inability to conserve • Conservation—the idea that certain physical characteristics of objects remain the same, even when their outward appearance changes—children have an inability to conserve • Their understanding is centered, or characterized by centration—they focus on one aspect of a situation, neglecting other important features • They are easily distracted by the perceptual appearance of objects • The treat the initial and final states of the water as unrelated events, ignoring the dynamic transformation between them • Reversibility—the ability to go through a series of steps in a problem and then mentally reverse direction, returning to the starting point • Lack of hierarchical classification • Children have difficulty with hierarchical classification—the organization of objects into classes and subclasses on the basis of similarities and differences Follow-up research on preoperational thought • Egocentric, animistic, and magical thinking • 4 year olds show clear awareness of others vanta
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