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Chapter 7

Psych 211: Chapter 7 Textbook Notes Part 1

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Mathieu Le Corre

Chapter 7 Notes Setting the Stage: Piaget’s Theory Basic Principles of Piaget’s Theory  Assimilation – new experiences are readily incorporated into a child’s existing theories  Accommodation – when a child’s theories are modified based on experience  Equilibration – when disequilibrium occurs, children reorganize their theories to return to a state of equilibrium  Cognitive development driven by equilibration results in formation of mental structures called schemas o Shemas are not static (do not stay the same); they are active (continually changing and developing)  These revolutionary changes in thought occurs 3 times over the lifespan: 2, 7 and 11 years old o Divides cognitive development into 4 stages: 1. Sensorimotor stage (birth - 2) - infancy 2. Preoperational stage (2 - 6) – preschool and early elementary school 3. Concrete operational stage (7 - 11) – middle and late elementary school 4. Formal operational stage (11+) – adolescence and adulthood  ALL children go through these stages (in order); no one can skip stages (although some are faster than others) Stages of Cognitive Development  Sensorimotor stage – infant progresses from simple reflex actions to symbolic processing o Substage 1: basic reflexes (birth – 1 month) o Substage 2: primary circular reactions (1 – 4 months)  Infant accidentally produces some pleasing event and then tries to recreate it  Ex. sucking thumb o Substage 3: secondary circular reactions (4 – 8 months)  Infant accidentally discovers repeated actions that involve an object o Substage 4: intentional behaviour (8 – 12 months)  The means of an activity are distinct from the ends  Ex. “moving dad’s hand” shceme is the means to achieve the goal (end) of “taking the toy” 1 o Substage 5: tertiary circular reactions (12 – 18 months)  Infant repeats old actions with new objects, as if trying to understand why different objects yield different outcomes (“little scientists”) o Substage 6: using symbols (18 – 24 months)  infants begin to talk and gesture (these are symbols that mean something)  pretend play – ex. sliding a block pretending it is a car  deferred imitation – behaviour seen in another time and place is reproduced Summary of 24 months of sensorimotor stage:  adapting to and exploring the environment o starting off as a “thermostat” (only responding reflexively to stimuli), then being able to intentionally interact with objects around them  understanding objects o object permanence – understanding that objects exist independently  infants lack object permanence until around 8 months  for infants, objects are ephemeral, existing when in sight and no longer existing when out of sight  after 8 months, infants start to understand object permanence (ex. are able to search for and find objects hidden under a blanket); still incomplete though  infants only have partial/incomplete knowledge of object permanence when they pass the hidden object task but fail the “A-not-B” task  18 months – infants have FULL understanding of object permanence!  Using symbols o Once infants use symbols, they can begin to anticipate the consequences of actions mentally instead of having to perform them Preoperational Stage (2-7)  Child’s use of symbols to represent objects and events  Egocentrism – young children’s difficulty in seeing the world from another’s viewpoint o Preoperational children typically believe that others see the world – both literally and figuratively – exactly as they do o Ex. 3 mountains test (they think you see the same perspective they see of the mountain) 2 o Some children in this age group can show non-egocentric thought, and some cannot  Centration – narrowly focused thought (psychological equivalent of tunnel vision) o Children concentrate on one aspect of a problem but totally ignore other equally relevant aspects o Piaget demonstrated this concept using the law of conservation  Children in this stage (preoperational) say that the taller glass has more liquid (just because the liquid is higher)  This is because preoperational thinking is centered (they only look at height; they don’t consider the width that compensates for the change in height level)  PROBLEM: egocentrism and centration Concrete Operational Stage (7-11)  Distinctly more adult like, and less child-like  FOUNDATION: Reality  Children first use mental operations to solve problems and to reason o Mental operations – strategies and rules that make thinking more systematic/powerful  Ex. addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, etc. (arithmetic operations)  They can be reversed  Ex. 3 + 5 = 8, therefore, 8 - 5 = 3  Reversibility is partially why children are able to solve the conservation problem o No more egocentrism or centration!  PROBLEM: thinking is limited to the tangible/real (the here and now); therefore, cannot think abstractly or hypothetically about things that are not present o Can only use past experience to solve conditionals Formal Operational Stage (11 – adult)  Children/adolescents apply mental operations to abstract entities  They can think hypothetically and reason deductively (freed from the concrete/real!)  Can solve problems by forming hypotheses (whereas concrete operational children dive right into problems without formulating possibilities, etc.)  Deductive reasoning – ability to draw appropriate conclusions from facts 3 o for the “feather breaking glass” example, concrete operational children would say the glass didn’t break (because from experience, feather’s are too weak); whereas formal operational children would say that the glass did break because although it goes against what experience tells us should be true, formal operational children are able to apply the facts given to the situation o “feather breaking glass” is counterfactual  Concrete operational children resist reaching counterfactual conclusions  Formal operational children often reach counterfactual conclusions  At this stage, although we always learn more as we get older, our way of thinking is unchanged o We have reached the end (finished) of qualitative change in cognitive development! Summary Table: Lasting Contributions of Piaget’s Work  3 enduring contributions: 1. The study of cognitive development itself a. Piaget looked at the “how” of cognitive development 2. A new view of children a. Emphasized constructivism – view that children are active participants in their own development who systematically construct ever more sophisticated understandings of their worlds 3. Fascinating, often counterintuitive discoveries 4 Weaknesses of Piaget’s Theory  Underestimates cognitive competence of infants and young children  Overestimates cognitive competence in adolescents  Vague with respect to processes and mechanisms of change o Ex. accommodation and assimilation are too vague to test scientifically  Stage model doesn’t account for variability in children’s performance o Cognitive development is nowhere near as “stage-like” as Piaget believed  Undervalues the influence of the sociocultural environment on cognitive development o Ex. “little scientists” do not experiment solely on their own; they grow and understand the world also due to influence
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