Child Development Chapter Notes
Midterm #2 Material: Chapter 7-11
Chapter 7: Cognitive Development: the Piagetian Approach
Cognition: higher-order mental processes, such as reasoning, learning, thinking and
problem solving, through which humans attempt to understand the world.
Two great challenges that a cognitive development researcher faces (that reflect the 2
general goals of developmental psychology: describe and explain):
1) Discovering the mixture of competence and limitations that characterizes
thought at different points in childhood
2) To discover how the limitations are overcome and how new forms of
His research focuses on the childs understanding of space, time and causality, of
number and quantity, of classes and relations, of invariance and change.
He took ideas about the structure and function of intelligence from biology.
Basic principle of Organization: organisms are always highly organized systems.
For Piaget, the essence of intelligence does not lie in individually learned responses or
isolated memories; the essence of intelligence lies in the underlying organization. This
organization takes the form of various cognitive structures that the developing child
Basic principle of Adaptation: all organisms adapt to the environment in which they
must survive, often by means of very complex mechanisms.
According to Piaget, human intelligence is an adaptive phenomenon.
Adaptation occurs through the complementary processes of assimilation and
Assimilation: we interpret new situations in terms of what we already understand (our
current cognitive structures)
Accommodation: altering our understanding to take account of new things.
Piagets 4 periods of development
Sensorimotor 0-2 Infants understand the world through
overt actions performed on it. The schemes become
progressively more complex and interrelated.
Decentering occurs, and object permanence
Preoperational 2-6 The child can use representations to solve
problems. Thinking is faster, more efficient, more
mobile and more socially sharable. Limitations
include egocentrism and centration.
Concrete Operational 6-12 Operations are a system of internal mental
actions that underlie logical problem solving. The child comes to understand classification and
Formal Operational 12-adult Capacity for hypothetical-deductive
reasoning. Thought begins with possibility and works
systematically and logically back to reality. They can
perform scientific problem solving.
Basic principle of Development: organisms are not static, they change across both the
lifetime of the individual and across the history of the
As children develop, they construct qualitatively different structures, structures that
allow a progressively better understanding of the world.
The Sensorimotor Period
Studying infant intelligence
Piagets conclusions are based on the study of his own children. His method combined
naturalistic observation with experimental manipulation.
His methodology has strengths and weaknesses:
Strengths: the method combines the observation of behaviour in a
natural setting and the longitudinal study of the same children
as they develop. This permits insight into forms and sequences
Weaknesses: his sample of only 3 people, from the same family,
being observed by their own parents.
The Six Substages
What is important is not the age but the sequence (the order in which the stages
come), which is assumed to be the same for all children
Substage 1: Exercising reflexes (birth-1 month)
The newborns adaptive repertoire is limited to simple, biologically
Piaget underestimated the newborns behavioural competence. Most of
what he labelled reflexes we would today refer to as congentially organized
behaviours, a term that reflects the complexity and the coordination that
behaviours such as sucking and looking may show.
These behaviours are important because they are the building blocks
from which all future development proceeds. Development occurs as the
behaviours are applied to more objects and events (assimilation) and as
their behaviours begin to change in response to these new experiences
Behaviour has an inner-directed quality
Substage 2: Developing Schemes (1-4 months)
Sensorimotor Schemes: skilled and generalizable action patterns by
which infants act on and understand the world.
Intelliegence at every period of development involves some form of
action on the world. During infancy, the actions are literal and overt. The infant knows the
world through behaviours such as sucking, grasping, looking and
Schemes undergo 2 sorts of development: 1) individual schemes
become progressively refined, 2) coordination of initially independent
schemes--- schemes are now combined into larger units---- schemes
involving different sensory modes begin to be brought together.
Piaget underestimated the degree of early coordination between the
senses. Research shows that newborns show a tendency to turn toward the
source of a sound.
Infants uses schemes for the pure pleasure of using them
Substage 3: Discovering Procedures (4-8 months)
The infant begins to show a clearer interest in the outer world. The
schemes begin to be directed away from the babys own body and toward
exploration of the environment.
The infant discovers procedures for reproducing interesting events. The
infant is beginning to develop a very important kind of knowledgewhat he
can do to produce desirable outcomes. That this knowledge is still far from
perfectly developed is implied by the term accidentally. Once the infant has
accidentally hit on some interesting outcome, he may be able to reproduce
Substage 4: Intentional Behaviour (8-12 months)
Intentional behaviour: behaviour in which the goal exists prior to the
action selected to achieve it; made possible by the ability to separate
means and end.
Substage 5: Novelty and Exploration (12-18 months)
The discovery of new means through active exploration.
The infant begins deliberately and systematically to vary her
behaviours, thus creating both new schemes and new effects.
When solving problems, the infant can discover completely new
solutions through a very active process of trial and error.
The first instance of the ability to use tools
High-Chair Behaviour: experiments for the pure pleasure of
It is through such active experimentation that infants learn about the
Substage 6: Mental Representation (18-24 months)
The infant becomes capable of representationof thinking about and
acting on the world internally and not merely externally.
Representation: the use of symbols to picture and act on the world
Object permanence: the knowledge that objects have a permanent existence that is
independent of our perceptual contact with them. It is the knowledge that a toy does not cease to exist just because one can no longer feel
During the 3 substage, at around 4-8 months that babies begin to search for
vanished objects. The infant may search if the object is partially hidden but not if it is
totally hidden. Search may also depend on whether the infants own action or
something else makes the object disappear. The infants knowledge of the object still
depends on his or her action on it.
During substage 4, at around 8-12 months, the infant can search systematically and
intelligently for hidden objects. Infants search even when the object is completely
gone and even when it was not her own actions that made it disappear.
A-not-B error: infants tendency to search in the original location in which an object
was found, rather than in its most recent hiding place. A characteristic of
stage 4 of object permanence.
A-not-B error is evidence that even at this substage, the babys knowledge of objects
is not freed from her own actions on them.
The substage 5 infant can handle the sort of multiple-hiding-place problems that baffle
a younger baby. The infant can handle such problems only if the movements of the
object are visible.
Progressive Decentering: the gradual decline in egocentrism that occurs across
Egocentrism: in infancy, an inability to distinguish the self from the outer world. In
later childhood, an inability to distinguish ones own perspective from that
Invariants: aspects of t