Chapter 8 - Cognitive Development: Piaget’s Theory, Case’s Neo-Piagetian, Vygotsky’s
Genetic Epistemology: The experimental study of the development of knowledge, developed by
- He used his three children to do his first research and then used the clinical method with
flexible question-answer technique.
What is Intelligence?
- Intelligence: In Piaget’s theory, a basic life function that enables an organism to adapt to its
o (How to turn on the TV? How to share candies among friends?)
- Proposed that intelligence was a form of equilibrium towards which all cognitive structures
- All intellectual activity is undertaken with one goal in mind to produce a balanced,
harmonious, relationship between one’s though processes and the environment.
- Called cognitive equilibrium: Piaget’s term for the state of affairs in which there is a
balanced, harmonious, relationship between one’s thought processes and the environment.
- Imbalances between the child’s way of thinking and the environment prompt the child to
make mental adjustments to cope with new experiences and restore cognitive equilibrium.
- “Interactionist” model
- Described children as constructivist: One who gains knowledge by acting or otherwise
operating on objects and events to discover their properties.
Cognitive Schemes and Cognitive Processes
- Schemes: Organized pattern of thoughts or action that one constructs to interpret some
aspect of one’s experience.
- Representations of reality
- Organization: An inborn tendency to combine and integrate available schemes into coherent
systems or bodies of knowledge.
- Goal of organization is to promote adaptation: An inborn tendency to adjust to the demands
of the environment.
- Adaptation occurs through
o Assimilation: The process of interpreting new experiences by incorporating them into
existing schemes. (Horses have four legs, dogs have four legs horse is a dog)
o Accommodation: The process of modifying existing schemes in order to incorporate or
adapt to new experiences.
o Cognitive development is an active process
See Table 7.1
Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development
4 major periods
Forms Invariant developmental sequence: A series of developments that occur in one
particular order because each development in the sequence is a prerequisite for the next.
1 1. Sensorimotor Stage (birth to 2 years)
- Piaget’s first intellectual stage, from birth to 2 years, when infants are relying on behavioral
schemes as a means of exploring and understanding the environment.
- 6 substages that transition the child from reflexive to a reflective being.
- 3 important aspects of sensorimotor development
a. Reflex Activity (Birth to 1 month)
- Reflex activity: First substage, infant’s actions are confined to exercising innate reflexes,
assimilating new objects into these reflexive schemes, and accommodating their reflexes to
these novel objects. (Sucking on blankets)
b. Primary Circular Reactions (1-4 months)
- Primary circular reactions: Second substage; a pleasurable response, centered on the
infant’s own body, that is discovered by chance and performed over and over.
- (Sucking their thumbs, making cooing sounds)
c. Secondary circular reactions (4-8 months)
- Third substage; a pleasurable response, centred on an external object, that is discovered by
chance and performed over and over.
- Making a rubber duck quack by squeezing it
- Unintentional behavior
d. Coordination of Secondary Schemes (8-12 months)
- 4 substage; infants begin to coordinate two or more actions to achieve simple objectives.
This is the first sign of goal-directed behavior.
- Hide toy under cushion, toddler will lift cushion to get the toy.
- Intentional behavior
e. Tertiary Circular Reactions (12-18 Months)
- Fifth substage; an exploratory scheme in which the infant devises a new method of acting on
objects to reproduce interesting results.
- May throw rubber duck or step on it to see if other things can come out of it.
f. Symbolic Problem Solving (18-24 months)
- Construct mental symbols, images, that they can use to guide future conduct
- Inner experimentation: The ability to solve simple problems on a mental, or symbolic, level
without having to rely on a trial-and-error experimentation.
Development of Imitation
- More precise at age 12 to 18 months
- Deferred imitation: Ability to reproduce a modeled activity that has been witnessed at some
point in the past.
Development of Object Permanence
- Object permanence: The realization that objects continue to exist when they are no longer
visible or detectable through the other senses.
- 1-4 months, infants will lose interest in something that disappeared.
- 4 to 8 months, infants will retrieve toys under cushions
- 8-12 months, search for hidden object.
- A-not-B error: Tendency of 8-12 months olds to search for a hidden object when they
previously found it even after they have seen it moved to a new location.
- 12-18 months, toddlers look for objects where they were last seen
See table 7.2
2 Challenges to Piaget’s Account of sensorimotor development: Neo-Nativism and Theory
- Idea that much cognitive knowledge, such as the object concept, is innate, requiring little in
the way of specific experiences to be expressed, and that there are biological constraints in
that the mind/brain is designed to process certain types of information in certain ways.
- Knowledge doesn’t have to constructed, but is in part of the genetic heritage
- More quantitative knowledge than proposed Piaget.
- Experiment with 5 month old babies and addition of 1+1
- See Figure 7.1
- Theories of cognitive development that combine neo-nativism and constructivism, proposing
that cognitive development progresses by children generating, testing, and changing theories
about the physical and social world.
The Preoperational Stage (2 to 7 years) Emergence of Symbolic Thought
- Second stage of cognitive development, lasting from ages 2 to 7, when children are thinking
at a symbolic level but are not yet using cognitive operations.
- Marked by appearance of the symbolic function: The ability to use symbols (images and
words) to represent objects and experiences.
- Representational Insight: The knowledge that an entity can stand for (represent) something
other than itself.
- Language is the most obvious form of symbolism
- Start to play house
- 2½ year olds lack dual representation: The ability to represent an object simultaneously as an
object itself and as a representation of something else.
Deficits in preconceptual reasoning
- Young children often display animism: Attributing life and lifelike qualities to inanimate
- Egocentrism: The tendency to view the world from one’s own perspective while failing to
recognize that others may have different points of view.
- Mountain problem: 3-4 year olds said the other person saw exactly what they saw.
- Appearance/reality distinction: Ability to keep the true properties or characteristics of an
object in mind despite the deceptive appearance that the object has assumed; notably lacking
among young children during the preconceptual period.
- Due to lacking of dual encoding - representing an object in more than one way at a time.
- Children become less egocentric and more proficient at classifying objects on the basis of
shared perceptual attributes such as size, shape, and color over the preschool years.
- Preschool child’s thinking is intuitive because their understanding of objects and events is
still largely centred: tendency of preoperational children to attend to one aspect of a situation
to the exclusion of others; contrasts with decentration.
o Understanding based on what the thing appears to be rather than on logical and rational
3 o Experiment to test this: conservation studies: child adjusts amount of liquid in two
identical containers until each is said to have the same amount to drink. Experimenter
than pours liquid from tall, thin container to short, broad container. He asks child if there
is still the same amount of liquid.
o Children younger than 6 or 7 will say no.
o Leads to preoperational children incapable of conservation: recognition that the
properties of an object or substance do not change when its appearance is altered in some
superficial way. (Volume, mass, number)
o Why do children fail to conserve?
Lack Decentration: The ability of concrete operational children to consider multiple
aspects of a stimulus or situation.
Lack reversibility: the ability to reverse or negate an action by mentally performing
the opposite action.
- Researcher say that Piaget underestimated children’s brains and that the mountain