CHAPTER 8 COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT: PIAGET AND VYGOTSKY
Cognition used to describe the mental activity through which human beings acquire,
remember and learn to use knowledge.
o Includes many mental processes such as perception, attention, learning, memory and
PIAGETS THEORY OF COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT
Piaget was interested in philosophy; the study of knowledge or epistemology.
Alferd Binet was working on the development of the first intelligence test.
As Piaget helped Binet with the intelligence test, he made two important observations
o He noticed that children of the same age tended to get the same answers wrong
o He observed that the errors of the children of a particular age differed in systematic
ways from those of older or younger children.
As the thought about the errors, he thought they revealed distinct age-related ways of thinking
and understanding the world.
To study childrens thinking, Piaget relied on interviews and methods
o He would present children with a problem to solve or a question to answer and ask
them to explain their thinking.
PIAGETS MAIN TENET: THE CHILD ACTIVELY SEEKS KNOWLEDGE
Children play an active role in acquiring knowledge.
In addition when children encounter new information, they actively try to fit in the new
knowledge they already possess; they construct their own understanding constructivist view
A cognitive structure is not a physical entity in the brain but an organized group of interrelated
memories, thoughts and strategies that the child uses in trying to understand a situation.
Piaget built much of his theory around the concept of schema - an organized unit of knowledge,
that collectively form the knowledge base that a person uses to understand and interact with
Childrens developing knowledge is organized
Organization entails that combination of simple mental structures into more complex systems.
Overtime, knowledge changes as the child attempts to understand new information and
combine it in some way with their current knowledge.
Operations schemas based on internal mental activities rather than overt physical activities.
When a number of changes in schemata occur, children change from one organized way of
understanding to an entirely new way of approaching the world.
o These organizational changes are stages and over the life course, there are four stages
of cognitive development
Adaptation - a process where children continually modify their schema in relation to their own
experiences. It involves determining how new information fits with existing knowledge as well as how
existing knowledge may need to change to incorporate new information.
To understand information, the child first tries to assimilate (assimilation); that is, applying their
existing schemas to the new experience then try to apply what they already know, their existing
schemas, to the new experience.
Accommodation modify an existing scheme to fit the characteristics of the new situation.
Assimilation and accommodation work together to organize childrens knowledge and
behaviour into increasingly complex structures.
THE STAGES OF COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT qualitative changes over time in the way a child thinks
All children pass through the stages in the same order but when they reach these stages is
different as it is based on experience. No stages can be skipped.
As children pass through these stages, they change from infants, who are incapable of mental
operations and depend on sensory and motor activities to learn about the world, into emerging
young adults capable of great flexibility of thought and abstract reasoning.
The sensorimotor stage
Dramatic achievement in the childs intellectual development occur during the first two years of
life; sensorimotor stage.
By the end of infancy, children begin to form mental representations of objects and events and
use this information in developing new behaviours and solving problems.
One of the major cognitive achievements during the sensorimotor stages is the development of
the object concept.
Infants learn about objects, including the object permanence; the realization that objects
continue to exist even when they are out of sight.
SUBSTAGE 1: basic reflex activity (birth to 1 month)
Infants become more proficient in the use of their innate reflexes such as grasping and sucking.
Over the first month of life, many of the involuntary reflexes are replaced by behaviours that are
similar but are controlled voluntarily. Ex. grasp objects they see.
In terms of object concept, in substage 1, infants only look at objects that are directly in front of
SUBSTAGE 2: primary circular reaction (1 to 4 months)
During this time infants produce repetitive behaviours that are focused on the infants own
Infants begin to repeat and modify actions that they find pleasurable and often these actions
begin by chance. Ex. accidently brings a finger close to their mouth and start sucking on it.
Finding the behaviour pleasurable, the infant attempts to reproduce the exact behaviour
Infants will display no comprehension that the objects have an existence of their own.
If a toy drops or vanishes, the child will not look for it.
SUBSTAGE 3: Secondary circular reactions (4 to 8 months)
Involve repetitive behaviours focused on external objects, hence the term secondary
During this stage, the childs reactions are still circular; they still engage in behaviours that
please them. Ex. continue shaking a rattle b/c of the amusing sound it produces.
The baby is now able to combine scheme such as grasping and shaking to produce complex beh. Object permanence; the infant begins to show some awareness of the permanence of the
The child will search for a partially visible object and not a covered one even if he watches as an
object is being covered he will not attempt to retrieve it.
SUBSTAGE 4: coordination of secondary schemata (8 to 12 months)
The child develops more sophisticated combinations of behaviours that are directed toward
objects and that reflect intentionality.
Piaget - the child is able to plan and attain to a goal by combining schemas
Marks the beginning of problem-solving behaviour and begins searching for completely
The child will search for an object but if it is moved to another location as the child watches, she
will continue to search in the first hiding place.
o A-not-B error b/c the child continues searching for it in the first hiding place, identified
as A, even after, in the childs presence, the object is put in second spot, identifies as B
SUBSTAGE 5: tertiary circular reaction (12 to 18 months)
Children begin to experiment with external objects; they use trial and error to learn more about
the properties of objects and to solve problems.
Unlike the earlier substages where children produce exact behaviours, in this stage, children are
able to produce similar but not exact behaviours.
Piaget this capability allows for novel exploration and children in this stage are known as little
scientists according to Piaget.
o Ex. children experiment by dropping objects from different heights to see what
The child displays the understanding of the permanence of an object hidden from view but still