Chapter 7- Cognitive development
- The Piagetian approach
Cognition, we mean all the higher-order mental processes by which humans attempt to understand and
adapt to their world—processes that go by such labels as thinking, reasoning, learning, and problem
solving. Infants and children are far more competent than we used to believe. Yet be very different from
Cognitive- developmental (Piagetian and Information-processing) and the socio-cultural approach
should serve as complementary rather than contradictory, and that a full model of cognitive
development requires insights gained from all three approaches.
Piaget’s goal throughout his career was to use the study of children to answer basic philosophical
questions about the nature and origins of knowledge.
From biology, Piaget took ideas about both the structure and the function of intelligence. A basic
principle in biology is that of organization (highly organized systems)
For Piaget, the essence of intelligence does not lie m individually learned responses or isolated
memories; the essence lies in the underlying organization. This organization takes the form of the
various cognitive structures the developing child constructs. Cognitive structures are ways to organize
information to understand and remember it more effectively.
Biology also contributed to Piaget’s theory.
Adaptation. All organisms adapt to the environment in which they must survive, often by means of very
complex mechanisms. Humans adapt to the environmental challenges they face. Adaptation occurs
through the complementary processes of assimilation and accommodation. Whenever we interact with
the environment, we assimilate the environment to our current cognitive structures; that is, we fit it in
or interpret it in terms of what we already understand. When children assimilate, they may distort
reality to fit with the understanding they already possess. ( dolphins are fish according to their current
understanding of what fish are).
Accommodating our structures to fit with the environment; that is, altering our understanding to take
account of new things. So, as a child learns more about the characteristics of fish and mammals, she
changes her understanding of dolphins to reflect their status as mammals. It is through innumerable
instances of assimilation and accommodation that cognitive development occurs.
Development is a final influence from biology, organisms is not static; rather they change across the
lifetime. (dynamic) ;. For Piaget, there is no single organization or set of cognitive structures that defines
childhood intelligence. As children develop, they construct qualitative different structures; structures
allow a progressively better understanding of the world. These qualitative different structures define the
Piagetian stages of development. (He was a stage theorist)
Piaget has 4 periods of development , sensorimotor, preoperational concrete operational and formal
operational. COGNITION DURING INFANCY: THE SENSORIMOTOR PERIOD (birth -2 yrs.)
Piaget studied his own children, and used naturalistic observation with experimental manipulation.
Advantages: observation of behaviour in the natural setting, and the longitudinal study of the same
children as they develop. This gained insight to forms and sequences that couldn’t have been captured
in a laboratory study.
Limitations: He only used 3 samples and they were from the same family and being observed by their
own parents (himself).
The six sub-stages of sensorimotor development
What is important is not the age, but the sequence- the order in which each stage appear- which is
assumed to be the same for all children.
SUBSTAGE 1EXERCISING REFLEXES (BIRTH TO I MONTH)
Limited to simple biologically provided reflexes, this is seen as automatic responses to particular
environmental stimuli. Piaget underestimated the newborns behavioural competence, today we would
refer most these actions as congenitally organized behaviours, a term that reflects the complexity and
the coordination that behaviours such as sucking and looking show. But Piaget still found them
important though , he saw them as the building blocks which all future development proceeds.
Development occurs as the behaviours are applied to more objects and events—in Piaget’s terms, as
babies assimilate more things—and as their behaviours begin to change in response to these new
experiences—in Piaget’s terms, as they begin to accommodate. As the initially inflexible behaviours
begin to be modified by experience, the infant is entering the second of the sensori¬motor substages.
SUBSTAGE 2: DEVELOPING SCHEMES (I TO 4 MONTHS)
from reflexes to sensorimotor schemes.
Sensorimotor schemes are the cognitive structures of infancy. The term refers to the skilled and
generalizable action patterns with which the infant acts on and makes sense of the world.
Schemes undergo two sorts of development during the second sub stage.
First, individual scheme become progressively refined (Ex. grasping is initially rather primitive and they
grasp everything the same way, when they r about 4 mths they’re grasping is more skilled and attuned
to environmental variability).
The second change involves the coordination-of initially independent schemes. Rather than being
performed in isolation, the schemes are now combined into larger units. Of particular importance is the
fact that schemes involving the different sensory modes—sight hearing, touch, taste, smell- begin to be
brought together. Thus, infant hears a sound and turns toward the source of the sound, a coordination
of hearing and vision.
Disadvantage; Piaget underestimated the degree of early coordination between the senses. Newborns
show a tendency to turn toward the source of sound. Suggesting the beginning of such coordination are
present earlier than he believed.
SUBSTAGE 3: DISCOVERING PROCEDURES (4 TO 8MONTHS)
Infants begin to show clearer interest in the outer world. The schemes begin to be directed away from
the baby’s own body and toward the environment, ( before simply grasping for the sake of grasping) a sub stage 3 baby who manipulates a toy does so because of real interest in exploring that object.
Infants discover procedures for reproducing interesting events. The baby begins to develop a very
important kind of knowledge- what he can do to produce desirable outcomes. This is far from perfect
though, it happens accidentally. “after-the-fact grasp” of causality, once he has accidentally hit
something to produce an outcome he can reproduce it, but he cant figure out in advance how to
produce the interesting effect.
SUBSTAGE 4: INTENTIONAL BEHAVI0UR(8T0 12 MONTHS)
“after-the-fact” restriction disappears. Now the infant first perceives some desirable goal and then
figures how to achieve it. The first genuinely intentional behaviour.
Intentional behaviour involves an ability to separate means and end. The infant must be able to use one
scheme as a means to lead to some other scheme, which then becomes the goal, or end.
PILLOW EXAMPLE FROM CLASS: Suppose the baby is about to reach for a toy and we drop a pillow
between her hand and toy. How does the baby respond? Simple though this problem may seem, before
stage 4 the infant cannot solve it. The younger infant may storm ineffectually at the pillow or may
immediately activate the goal scheme; that is, do to the pillow what she would have done to the toy
What the sub stage 3 infant does not do—and the sub stage 4 infant does is first intentionally push the
pillow aside and then reach for the toy This sort of adaptive problem solving requires a separation of
means and end. The infant must use the push-aside scheme as a means to get to die reach-and-play
scheme, the desired end.
Disadvantage; Recent research suggests that infants as young as 6 mnths, and perhaps even 3, may
exhibit intentional behaviour. Yet again he underestimated the age at which the infant is capable of
particular cognitive behaviour, in this case intentional behaviour.
SUBSTAGE 5: NOVELTY AND EXPLORATION (12TO 18 MONTHS)
“the discovery of new means through active exploration. ”The word conveys a major difference
between substage 4 and substage 5. The behaviour of the substage 4 infant, although certainly
intelligent, is essentially conservative. The infant at this stage tends use mostly familiar schemes to
produce a small range of mostly familiar effects. The sub stage infant, in contrast, begins deliberately
and systematically to vary her behaviours, thus creating both new schemes and -new effects. The infant
can discover completely new solutions through a very active process of trial and error. (far away goals,
use of tools ) Also experiments for the pure pleasure of experimenting.
Spoon drop example from class: the baby leans over the edge of chair and drops her spoon on the floor,
carefully noting how it bounces. Parent retrieves it and returns the spoon, baby repeats the drop,
perhaps with more force this time. Parent returns spoon again, this time baby flings it across the room-
parent removes spoon. It is through active experimentation that infants learn about the world.
SUBSTAGE6:MENTAL REPRESENTATION (18 TO 24 MONTHS)
The first 5 stages all infants adaptation to the world occurs through overt behaviour. In substage 6 the
infant becomes capable of for the first time of mental representations- of thinking about and acting on
the world internally and not merely externally. ( this advance will bring sensorimotor stage to an end)
EXAMPLE FROM CLASS; Jaqline arrives at a closed door- unable to open it cuz she has a blade of grass in
each hand. So she puts down the grass on the floor, reaches for the door then pauses, she perceives that puling the door toward her she will simultaneously chase away the grass which she placed between
the door and tie threshold. She therefore picks it up in order to put it outside the door’s zone of
She’s doing two things, imagining the problem, and imagining a solution. She engaged in a mental
problem solving based on internal use of representation or symbols that is not possible in early infancy.
Transitional periods, when a kid is in between two stages. Lucienne example (grasping chain by
widening the opening, but externalizing her thinking while she does it by using her mouth). It is because
Lucienne is transitional, on the brink of using representations but not yet very good at it, that she still
has to externalize her symbol.
The term object permanence refers to our knowledge that objects have a permanent existence, that
independent of our perception of them they still exist. Infants do not at first understand object
permanence, and that this understanding develops only gradually across the entire span of infancy.
Piaget has 6 substages for object permanence as well:
During the first 2 stages (3-4 mnths) babies do not realize that objects exist apart from their own actions
on them. In substage 3 (4-8mtnhs) babies begin to search for vanished objects. However this search has
a lot of limitations; the infant may search if : 1, its partially hidden but not totally hidden., may depend
on how much it is hidden. 2, wheater the infants own action or something else makes the object
disappear. A baby that pushed it over an edge so it goes away may look, but if the adult does it it is
unlikely that he will look. Substage 4 marks an important step foreward in object permanence, the baby
(8-12 mnths) will now search systematically and intelligently for hidden objects. He even searches when
the object is completely gone and even when it wasn’t his own actions that made is disappear.
CLASS EXAMPLE; Yet there are still limitations, in the understanding of permanence, which are revealed
when the infant must cope with more than one hiding place. Piaget might, for example, hide a toy under
a pillow to his daughter’s left two or three times, each time allowing her to retrieve it successfully Then,
with his daughter watching, he might hide the same toy under a blanket to her right. The baby would
watch the toy disappear under the blanket and then turn and search under the pillow! What seemed to
define the object was not its objective location, but the baby’s previous success of finding it—it became
“the thing that I found under the pillow.” For Piaget, this behaviour (which has come to be labelled the
A-not –B-error) is evidence that even at this substage, the baby’s knowledge of objects is not freed from
her own actions on them.
Infant overcomes this in substage 5 (12-18 months) he can handle the sort of multiple-hiding-place
problems that younger babies cant. ONLY if he can see when the object is moved from one hiding spot
to another, he cannot handle invisible displacement. In substage 6 when the capacity of substage 6
when the capacity for symbolic functioning emerges.
Progressive decentering. According to Piaget, the infant begins life in a state of profound egocentrism;
that is, he literally cannot distinguish between himself and the outer world. The newborn and the young
infant simply do not know what is specific to the self (one’s own perceptions, actions, wishes, and so on)
and what exists apart from one self. This egocentrism is reflected most obviously m the absence of
object permanence. Only gradually across infancy does the baby decenter and grow more aware of the world.
One important knowledge of what it is that stays the same- remains invariant- in the face of constant
change. The first and most basic cognitive invariant is object permanence- the realization that the
existence of objects is invariant despite changes in our perceptual experience of them.
Recent work testing Piaget’s claims
Criticism of weather infants understanding really is as limited as he suggested, a particular concern has
been to his emphasis on motor search behaviours in assessing object permanence (pushing aside a
screen or lifting a cloth) It might be a too complicated of an action for infants even if they have the
knowledge of object permanence, they are unable to show it. The use of Habituation and dishabituation
has instead been used to assess their object permanence abilities.
Class example A study by Baillargeon (1978) were babies were shown a screen that rotated through a
180 degree arc. This was interesting but eventually the babies habituated to it, at this oint a wodden box
was placed in the path of the screen. The baby could see the box at the start of trial, but that the box
disappeared from view once the screen had reached its full height. Then they were presented with a
possible or an impossible event. Possible was that the screen would stop –as expected when a solid
object is in its way. Impossible event the screen rotated right through the object. Any adult would be
surprised by the impossible events, and infants as young as 4.5 months apparently possess the same
In a future experiment they replaced the box with a compressible ball of gauze. Here the infants
showed no increase in attention indicating that they retained info about the precence and also the
compressibility of the hidden object. So they know something about existence but also about properties
The concrete operational period-
To conserve the quantity, the child must be able to overcome the misleading perceptual
appearance.This is precisely what the pre-operational child cannot do.
Different forms of conservation is mastered at different times.
1. Number is typically mastered first (by 5-6) 2. Conservation of mass and continuous quantity ( amount
ad water volume) are also relatively early achievements. 3. Conservation of length and weight are more
difficult (2-3 y after the first cons
ervations) 4. Invariant of object permanence- the knowledge that the existence of objects is invariant.
During the preoperational period the child comes to understand qualitative identity, during the concrete
operational the child masters the various conservations.
best way to test the childs understanding about classes is the class inclusion problem.
( EXAMPLE FROM CLASS) We present the child with 20 wooden beads, 17 red and 3 white. The child
agrees that some are white, some red but all are wooden. Then we ask child if there are more red or
more wooden beads. The preoperational childs answer is the same “there are more red beads than
wooden”, the child is unable to think about beads as belonging simultaneously to both a sub class and a superordinate class. The role of centration- the tendency to focus on what is perceptually obvious and
to ignore other info. The result is that the child makes fundamental logical errors.
The conaete operational response is again quite different. The concrete operational child can solve this
and other versions of the class inclusion problem. Furthermore, the concrete operational child.
According to Piaget, appreciates the logical necessity of the class inclusion answer. The child does not
simply know that there are not more roses than flowers or more dogs than animals. The child who truly
understands the structure of classes knows that there can never he more roses or more dogs—that it is
logically impossible for a subclass to be larger than the superordinate class.
in addition to understanding classes the child must understand relations between classes. Thus, a large
set of Piagets tasks have to do with relational reasoning, the Seration task.
(EXAMPLE FROM CLASS) To study seration of length we might present 10 sticks in diff lengths randomly
arranged on a table and then ask the child to order them from smallest to biggest. We will expect a child
who is persistent enough to arrive at the right answer eventually through trial- and error, yet most kids
fail usually only ending up with a small sticks-big sticks piles, and even if they do solve it it’s unlikely that
they will be able to solve further variants of the problem – for ex inserting a new stick in its right place.
What seration requires according to Piaget is a systematic and logical approach in which the child is able
to think of each stick as being simultaneously longer than the one that precedes it, and shorter than the
one that comes after it. It is this sort of two dimensional, non-centrated approach to problem solving
that the preoperational child lacks.
The pre-operational child also fails to appreciate the transitivity of quantitative relations (the ability to
combine relations logically to deduce necessary conclusions- for ex id A>B and B>C then A>C. In Piagets
theory this is a concrete operational achievement) The concrete child has this ( though not immediately
it emerges around age 7 or 8) ( Logically necessary implications from the information available)
The concept of operations
Operations- Piagets term for the various forms of mental action through which older children solve
problems and reason logically.
It is like a sensorimotor scheme, always involved in some kind of action- operating on the world in order
to understand it. And its also like schemas , in the way they do not exist in isolation but are instead
organized into a larger system of interrelated cognitive structures.
There are also differences from schemas, operations, in contrast to schemas, are a system of internal
actions. They are logical in-the-head form problem solving towards which the child has been moving
slowly since the onset of representational intelligence.
An additional feature of concrete operational thought is de-centration: the ability to simultaneously
keep in mind multiple aspects of a situation. Which plays a major role in conservational tasks.
Reversibility, is a property of operational structures that allows thee cognitive system to concept, or
reverse, potential disturbances and thus to arrive at an adaptive, non-distorted understanding of the
world. Something the pre-operational child lacks MORE ON THE PREOPERATIONAL-CONCRETE OPERATIONAL CONTRAST
3 mountains task – perhaps it tells us more about the young childs problems with spatial computation
skills than about egocentrism, when the task is simplified, young children seem less egocentric. Children
as young as 3 can predict others viewpoint when familiar toys serve as landmarks rather thean the 3
mountains. Even 2 year olds can demonstrate some awareness of others point of view in very simple
situations. Ex; when asked to show someone else a picture the 2 year old will hold the pic so that it face
is towards the viewer and not themselves. Even 18 months old kids can point to things to make an adult
look at it suggesting that they understand that the adult is not seeing what they are seeing. AS well ass
the Goldfish- broccoli example (in class) child sees adult eating broccoli , so they will offer the adult the
broccoli despite their own preference for goldfish crackers.
They ( 4 year olds) are also able to tailor their speech – talk in simpler speech when talking to a younger
child, compared to when they talk to an adult. They adjust the level of their communication to the
cognitive resources of the listener. ( could be due to other things though, like the child saw that’s the
way the mother speaks to a younger sibling so thc child is simply imitating this ) Obviously not as
advanced as an older child but 3-4 year olds performance is more advanced than we once believed.
Some impressive early accomplishments are also evident in the area od symbolic activity
Example from class; big snoopy little snoopy ( page 248)
The question is weather children can use this symbolic equivalence to solve the task, by 3 years of age
they can. DeLoache studies demonstrate some impressive symbolic competence by age 3, they also
reveal a surprising early deficit. Children only a few months younger cant solve the snoopy task. WHY?
DeLoache argues that the challenge for the young child lies in thee need for dual representation, which
is the realization that an object can be represented in two ways simultaneously. In the find-Snoopy task,
the snoopy and miniature dog are not only symbols for their life-size counterparts, they are also objects
in themselves. Two-year-olds are apparently unable to simultaneously think about them as both objects
The dual-representation hypothesis suggests that young children might be able to show greater success
if the symbols were less object like-less of a thing onto itself. When photographs of the room replace the
scale model kids as young as 2.5 years are able to use symbols to find snoopy.
Investigators have simplified the conservation task in various ways such as reduction in verbal demands,
or they have made the context of the question more natural and familiar by embedding the task within
an ongoing game. This does not eliminate conservation errors completely, they often improved
performance by supposedly pre-operational 4-5 y ears old.
An overall evaluation
The consistent message that emerges from the studies just described is that the preschool child is more competent than Piaget’s research and theory would lead us to believe. Young children’s relational
reasoning, for example, has been shown to be more impressive than one might think from reading
Piaget, and the same is true for understanding of classes. Its not that Piagets description is inaccurate,
young children are often egocentric, centrated and illogical. They fail a wide range of tasks on which
older children succeed, and they need simplifications or special help to show their competence. Piaget
was correct in asserting that there are important limitations in early childhood thinking and important
developmental changes between early childhood and middle childhood. But he may have somewhat
misjudged the name of both the limitations and the changes.
THE FORMAL OPERATIONAL PERIOD: ADOLESCENT AND ADULT (12-13 > )
CHARACTERISTICS OF FORMAL OPERATIONALTHOUGHT
The concrete part of the label refers to the basic limitation of concrete operational thought. As we have
seen, the concrete operational child, in contrast to tiie sensorimotor child, operates cognitively by
means of representations rather than overt actions. Nevertheless, concrete operational children are still
limited to dealing largely with what is directly in front of them—with what is concrete, tangible, real.
What the child at this stage cannot yet do at all well is deal with the hypothetical—with the whole world
of possibility rather than immediate reality. Formal operational thinkers show no such limitation. The
distinguishing characteristic of the formal operational period is the capacity for hypothetical-deductive
reasoning. ( a form of problem solving characterized by the ability to generate and test hypotheses and
draw logical conclusions from the results of the tests. In Piaget’s theory, this is a formal operational
achievement.)The formal operational thinker moves easily and surely through the world of what-ifs,
might-been’s, and if-then’s.
The deductive part of hypothetical-deductive is also important. To qualify as formal operational thought
must do more than simply imagine possibilities. The formal operational thinker possesses rigorous
logical system for evaluating hypotheses and deducing necessary outcomes. As the term operations
implies, this system again involves various forms of mental action.
PIAGETS “Reasoning about pendulums” ( what decides how fast it swings) The point is that the formal
operational thinker possesses a set of cognitive structures that will allow systematic solution of the
problem. The solution requires first identifying each of the potentially important variables—weight,
length, and so on—and then systematically testing them out, varying one factor at a time while holding
other factors constant. The subject must be able to generate all the possible variables (and sometimes
combinations of variables), keep track of what has been done and what remains to be done to draw
logical conclusions from the overall pattern of the results.
MORE RECENT WORK ON FORMAL OPERATIONS
Some studies have found substantial proportions of adults who fail the usual formal operational tasks.
This suggests Piaget might have overestimated this ability.
The Inhelder and Piaget tasks are unfamiliar to most people, and the usual method of administering
them may not elicit the individual’s optimal performance. Studies have shown that the addition of a
simple hint or prompt concerning the appropriate procedure can lead to a marked improvement on
later trials. Another possible approach is to vary the content of the tasks. Perhaps people tend to be formal
operational when reasoning about content that is interesting and familiar to them. Piaget himself in fact
suggested this possibility in one of his later articles on the subject.
Ex; college students ability to reason at a formal operational level depended on the fit between
academic training and the specific task.
One more indication that experience can be important comes from across-time comparisons of
performance on formal operational tasks. Younger ppl did better than older (1960-1970s people) ,
perhaps because the rise in education.
EVALUATION OF PIAGETS THEORY
STAGES- What must be true for a stage theory to be valid?
- most agree on at least 3 criteria ; qualitative as well as quantitative changes ( how the child thinks not
only how much), that stages follow in an invariant sequence- each stage building on the next and no
stage can be mastered until the preceding stage has been mastered. And the last criterion ( that has
created the most problems) Concurrencies in development, if two or more abilities are determined by
the same underlying structures, then they should emerge at the same time. Children’s endeavors should
show a great deal of consistency.
Problem; Piagets theory is far from consistent. Some researchers think his model is basically accurate,
even though specific details may need correcting. Others believe cognitive development does in fct
occur in stages, but that the stages are different from those posited by Piaget. And some bevileve the
concept of stages should be abandoned.
In Piagets view all children around the world pass through the same stages in the same order. Is this
true? Yes and no.
Research across cultural settings indicate that specific experiences available to children can affect the
development of Piagetian concepts in a variety of ways. Culture can affect the rate of development,
and the final level of development, and even the order in which certain abilities emerge.
At the same time cross-cultural research also provides some support for the Piagetian claim of
universality. No one has found a culture where the children do not eventually acquire the forms of
knowledge. Cross-cultural studies, then, reveal both variation and consistency, depending on which
aspects of development we consider.
Cognitive change ( biology and environment p 255)
Equilibration: Piaget’s term for the biological process of self-regulation that propels the cognitive
system to higher forms of equilibrium.
Equilibrium: A characteristic of a cognitive system in which assimilation and accommodation are in
balance, thus permitting adaptive, non-distorted responses to the world.
NEW DIRECTIONS CONCEPTS- A concept is a mental grouping of different items into a single category on the basis of some
underlying similarity—some common core that makes the mall, in a sense, the same tiling (all birds, all
instances of happiness). Concepts are a fundamental way in which we organize the world, and thus their
development in childhood is of clear interest.
(Read page 258)
Theory of mind-
refers to children’s understanding of the mental world- what they think about such phenomena as
thoughts, beliefs, desires and intentions. Do they realize theres a distinction between the mental world
and the non-mental world, and do they realize that theyh still are connected- that our experiences leads
us to certain thoughts and beliefs in turn direct our behaviour?
A topic of particular interest to theory of mind researchers have been on false belief- the realization
that it is possible for ppl to hold beliefs that are not true. This topic provides evidence to the respect of
the childs ability to separate the mental world from the non-mental world.
( Anne and the marble in the basket example) - to arrive at this answer we must set aside our knowledge
of the true state of affairs to realize that Sally could believe some tiling that differs from this true state—
that she could hold a false belief. Most 3 year olds fail this task. 4 year olds are much more likely to
understand that they can hold a belief that is false, and that representation can change even when the
reality doesn’t. They are also more likely to realize that others could hold a false belief.
further evidence of the young’s difficulty in distinguishing representations from reality comes from a
popular theory of mind task;
appearance-reality distinction concerns the ability to distinguish between the way things appear and
the way they really are. EX: Red car – behind black screen 3 year olds will say its really black but 6 years
old will understand its really red.
Two general conclusions come from studies of children’s understanding of the origins of belief.
1. The preschool period is again a time of important accomplishments. By age 5 most kids have a basic
understanding of how experience leads to belief.
2. Given how obvious experience-belief connections seem to an adult. The second conclusion is that this
knowledge does in fact have to develop for young preschoolers have only the shakiest grasp of how
belief originate. Thus a 3 year old may be unable, seconds after learning the contents of a container to
indicate weather he learned it by sight or touch or by being told.
One of the most interesting of the ongoing research efforts concerns possible relations between theory-
of-mind understanding and social behaviour. It is certainly plausible that there could be a relation and in
both directions—that children’s understanding of the mental world can help them Interact effectively
with other people, but also that interactions with others can help teach children about belief and desire
and other mental states. There is, in fact, evidence for both sorts of link.
CONCLUSION The major criticisms should be apparent by now. Piaget often underestimated children’s ability, perhaps
especially during the infant and preschool years. Development is not as orderly and consistent as
Piaget’s stage model seems to imply Even if the concept of stages is valid, the logical models tiiat Piaget
used to characterize the stages are questionable. Finally, Piaget never offered a completely satisfactory
explanation of cognitive change.
The information processing perspective is a major contemporary alternative to Piaget.
INFORMATION PROCESSING APPROACH
Not a single theory rather a general framework within which reasearcher have developed a number of
Thinking is information processing. The goal of the approach is to specify underlying psychological
processes- and developmental changes they undergo.
THE FLOWCHART METAPHOR
This particular theory deals with memory. The starting point is some environmental input, and the end
point is some response output. Between stimulus and response, a number of psychological processes
EX; learning a new word – word enters sensory register ( audio) thw word moves to short term
memory transferred to long term memory.
Control processes affect the maintenance of information and the movement from one store to another.
Response-generating mechanisms are necessary to explain the eventual overt response –the childs
ability to say the learnt word.
Information processing tries to capture the orderly flow of info through the cognitive system. The
information is acted on, processed, in various ways as it moves through the system
A cognitive system that can transform a variety of inputs into a variety of outputs in a systematic and
intelligent way. THE COMPUTER METHAPOR
The computer is useful as a metaphor in thinking about human cognition. Both store representations or
symbols and manipulate these symbols in order to solve problems. Both perform a variety of such
manipulations in and incredibly rapid and powerful fashion, despite this, both are limited in the amount
of info they can store and manipulate. Both, however, and learn from experience and modify their rule
system in a progressively adaptive manner.
Not just a metaphor also provides a method- the computer stimulation -The researcher attempts to
program a computer to produce some segment of intelligence behaviour in the same way in which
humans produce behaviour. The idea is to build into the computer program whatever knowledge and
rules are thought to be important for the human problem solver.
They also offer powerful method for testing theories of underlying process and its development. But
many are limited in that they are static, at best they tell us what cognitive system is like at one point in
development. They don’t model the developmental change in cognition. ( NOT PLASTIC)
Connectionism- creation of artificial neural networked, embodied in computer program, that solve
cognitive tasks and modify their solutions in response to experience. A methodological and theoretical
approach adopted by a subset of information-processing researchers.
( page 274) read more about it
A micro genetic study begins with a selection of a sample of kids who are thought to be in a transitional
phase for the knowledge being studied; that is close to moving on to a higher level of understanding.
The goal is to observe processes of change as the change occurs- this is usually impossible with kids u
only see once or twice.
Siegler analogy- with longitudinal studies we get snap shots- pics of a certain point in time. But with
micro gen studies we get movies- a continuous record of change over time.
Siegler identifies 5 issues related to cognitive change for which mico gen techniques can provide
1. It can inform us about the path of cognitive change (sequences) 2. Info about the rate of change (how
fast knowledge is mastered) 3. Breath of change (how narrowly or broad it is applied) 4. Possible
variability in the pattern of change (do all kids follow the same rout in mastering this knowledge) 5. Info
about the sources of change (experiences and processes though which new knowledge is constructed.
COMPARISON WITH PIAGET
1. Content studied
2. General theoretical level ( both fall within the cognitive developmental approach to child
development) 3 some info –processing theorist follow Piaget stages ( New-Piagetians; tend to be limited in scope,
focusing on specific skills and particular aspects of the childs development)
1. Most do not have a stage model
2. Information- processing theorists stages are more domain specific; more concerned with distinct
aspects, or domains, of development.
3. Info-procc has emphasis on logical rules underlying problem solving
4. Info proc theorists attempt to develop models that are more specific and more complete than those
offered by Piaget.
These goals have implications in both methodology and theoretical applications.
MEMORY IN INFANCY
All info procc models rely on a theory on memory. Children can learn from their experiences only if they
somehow retain the info from these experiences over time.
Event memory; scripts for sequences of familiar actions or routine events in ones daily world.
Script; a representation of the typical sequence of events in a familiar context,
Constructive memory; the ways the individual interpret the info they take in terms of pr