Child development Chapter 6
Theories of Cognitive Development
- how children think
6.1 Setting the stage : Piaget's Theory
- Piaget : trained biologist but developed interest in philosophy ; nature & origins of knowledge (epistemology)
- he decided to investigate by doing experiments with children
Basic Principles of Piaget's Theory :
- believed children are naturally curious
- they are like scientists (create theories abt how the world works)
- Assimilation occurs when new experiences are readily incorporated into a child's existing theories.
- eg: infant thinking that all dogs just bark and likes to lick faces - "their theory of dogs"
- Accommodation occurs when a child's theory is modified based on experiences.
- eg: when they encounter cat for the first time and notices that it says meow instead of barking and it rubs
against them instead of licking. So they learn to include this new kind of animal
- these two begin very early in infants
- like the "theory of grasping" : distinguishes objects that can be grasped with one hand from those that require two
- they both are usually in equilibrium / balance
- When disequilibrium occurs, children reorganize their theories to return to a state of equilibrium, a process that Piaget
- In Piaget's theory, cog devp driven by equilibrium results in the formation of mental structures called schemas or
- he used "schema" term to refer to thought -- to cog structures
- schemas are not static
- they change continuously and are developing.
- revolutionary changes in thought occur three times : at two, seven and eleven years of age
- this divides cog devp in 4 stages :
1. Sensorimotor (birth - 2yrs, encompassing infancy)
2. Preoperational stage ( 2 - 6yrs, encompassing preschool to elementary)
3. Concrete operational stage (7 - 11, encompassing middle and late elementary school)
4. formal operational (11 +, adolescence and adulthood)
Stages of Cognitive Development :
1. The sensorimotor stage :
- a period during which the infant progresses from simple reflex actions to symbolic processing
- in the 24 months of this stage, infants thinking progresses remarkably along 3 imp fronts.
➢ Adapting to and exploring the environment :
- btwn 1 & 4 months, reflexes are modified by experience
- may randomly place his thumb to his mouth, leading to suck and the pleasure from it.
- btwn 4 & 8 months, infant shows more interest in the world (attn to objects)
- at abt 8 months, they reach a watershed : the onset of deliberate, intentional behavior.
- beginning 12 months, they become active experimenters
➢ Understanding objects :
- Understanding that objects exist independently is called object permanence.
- infants lacked this for at least a year (8 months)
- for infants, objects are ephemeral (exist when in sight & not exist when out of sight) Child development Chapter 6
- A-not-B-error : babies reach for an object at the first location A, not the second location B)
- shows infants limited understanding of objects
- they do not have full understanding of object permanence until 18 months
➢ Using Symbols :
- by 18 months, most of them can talk and gesture
- have the capacity to use symbols
- children also begin to pretend play which is another use of symbols
2. Preoperational Stage :
- is marked by the child's use of symbols to represent objects and events
- they believe that others see the world (literally & figuratively) exactly as they do
- Egocentrism : young children's difficulty in seeing the world from another's view point
- They sometimes credit inanimate objects with life and lifelike properties : Animism
- eg : that their teddies think & feel just like them
- they have psychological equivalent of tunnel vision
- concentrate on one aspect of prob but totally ignore the other equally relevant aspects
- Centration is Piaget's term for this narrowly focused thought that characterizes preoperational youngsters.
- conservation of the liquid quantity eg.
- cos preoperational thinking is centered, they ignore the fact that the change in the level of the juice has to be
determined by the diameter of the glass.
- Centration and ego-centrism are major limits in this stage
3. Concrete Operational Stage:
- more adult like and less child like
- children begin to use mental operations to solve problems and to reason
- Mental operations are strategies and rules that make thinking more systematic and more powerful;
- they can be reversed
- thinking abstractly and hypothetically is beyond their ability
4. The Formal Operational Stage :
- children & adolescents apply mental operations to abstract entities; they think hypothetically and reason deductively.
- they can solve problems by creating hypotheses and testing them.
- the ability to draw appropriate conclusions from facts is known as deductive reasoning.
Piaget's Contributions :
- The study of cog devp itself
- a new view of children.
- He emphasized "Constructivism": the view that children are active participants in their own devp who
systematically construct ever more sophisticated understandings of their world.
- Fascinating, often counter intuitive discoveries (like "A not B error)
Teachings that foster children's growth:
- facilitate rather than direct children's learning
- recognize individual differences when teaching
- Instruction is most effective when it is tailored to individual students
- Be sensitive to children's readiness to learn
- Emphasize exploration & interaction
- underestimates cog competence in infants and overestimates in adolescents
- theory is vague with respect to processes and mechanisms of change
- His stage model does not account for variability in children's performance
- undervalues the influence of the sociocultural environment on cog devp
6.2 Modern theories of Cognitive development Child development Chapter 6
The Sociocultural Perspective : Vygotsky's Theory
- According to sociocultural perspective, children are products of their culture.
- children's cog devp is not only brought about by social interaction, but it is inseparable from the cultural contexts in
which they live.
- gauvin argues :
1. Culture often defines which cog activities are valued
2. Culture provides tools that shape the way children think
3. Higher level cultural practices help children to