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Chapter 4

Chapter 4 - Theories of Cognitive Development.docx

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Ori Friedman

[ 4 ] – THEORIES OF COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT  Advantages of knowing theories: 1 – developmental theories provide framework for understanding important phenomena 2 – developmental theories raise crucial q’ns about human nature 3 – developmental theories lead to a better understanding of children  B/c child dvlpmt is such a complex and varied subject, no single theory accounts for all of it  Most informative current theories focus primarily on cognitive/soc dvlpmt  Piagetian theory: - addresses nature-nurture, continuity/discontinuity, the active child  Information-processing theory: - addresses nature-nurture, how change occurs  Core-knowledge theory: - addresses nature-nurture, continuity/discontinuity  Sociocultural theory: - addresses nature-nurture, influence of sociocultural context, how change occurs PIAGET’S THEORY  Even today, Piaget’s theory remains standard against which all other dvlpmtal theories are measured  b/c his observations and descriptions of children vivstly convey flavour of their thinking at diff ages  b/c of exceptional breadth of the theory; extends from 1 days of infancy through adolescence and examines diverse topics  b/c it offers intuitively plausible depiction of interaction of nature and nurture in cognitive dvlpmt, as well as continuities and discontinuities that characterize intellectual growth View of Children’s Nature  Fundamental assumption: from birth onward, children are active mentally & physically, and that their activity greatly contributes to their own dvlpmt  His approach labelled constructivist b/c it depicts children as constructing knowledge for themselves in response to their exp’s  Constructive processes: - generating hypotheses - performing experiments - drawing conclusions from observations  2 ndassumption: children learn many important lessons on their own, rather than depending on instruction from adults / older children rd  3 : assumption: children are intrinsically motivated to learn and dN need rewards from adults to do so Central Developmental Issues Nature and Nurture  Interact to produce cognitive dvlpmt  Nurture includes not just nurturing provided by parents & other caretakers but every exp’ child encounters  Nature includes child’s maturing brain and body, ability to perceive, act and learn from exp’, and motivation to meet 2 basic f’ns central to cognitive dvlpmt (adaptation and organization)  adaptation = tendency to respond to demands of env’ in ways that meet one’s goals  organization = tendency to integrate particular observations into coherent knowledge  Can be said that part of children’s nature is to respond to their nurture Sources of Continuity  3 processes—assimilation, accommodation, and equilibration—that work together from birth to propel dvlpmt forward  Assimilation = process by which people translate incoming info into a form that they can understand  Accommodation = process by which people adapt current knowledge structures in response to new exp’s  Equilibration = process by which people balance assimilation and accommodation to create stable understanding; 3 phases: i.) equilibrium = satisfied w/ their understanding of a phenomena ii.) disequilibrium = perceive that their understanding is inadequate iii.) more stable equilibrium = sophisticated understanding that eliminates shortcomings of old one Sources of Discontinuity  Distinct stages of cognitive dvlpmt  Products of basic human tendency to organize knowledge into coherent structures  Each stage rep’s coherent way of understanding one’s exp’, and each transition btwn stages rep’s a discontinuous intellectual leap from one coherent way of understanding to the next, higher one  Central properties of Piaget’s stage theory: i.) qualitative change i.e. children in early stages of cognitive dvlpmt conceive of morality in terms of consequences of a person’s beh’, whereas children in later stages conceive of it in terms of person’s intent - age 5 judges someone who accidentally broke a whole jar of cookies as having been naughtier than someone who deliberately stole one cookie - age 8 would have opposite assessment ii.) broad applicability - type of thinking characteristic of each stage influences children’s thinking across diverse topics and contexts iii.) brief transitions - before entering new stage, children pass through brief transitional period in which they fluctuate btwn new and the old stage type of thinking characteristic iv.) invariant sequence - everyone progresses through stages in same order and never skips a stage  4 stages of cognitive dvlpmt: 1.) sensorimotor stage (birth-2yrs)—intelligence dvlpmts, and is expressed, through sensory & motor abilities; intelligence bound to immediate perceptions & actions 2.) preoperational stage (2-7yrs)—able to rep’ exp’s in lang and mental imagery; inability to perform mental op’s; unable to form certain ideas (i.e. conservation of liquid) 3.) concrete operational stage (7-12yrs)—can reason logically abt concrete objects & events; difficulty thinking in purely abstract terms and in generating scientific experiments to test beliefs 4.) formal operational stage (12yrs+)—can think deeply not only abt concrete events, but also abstractions and purely hypothetical situations; can perform systematic scientific experiments and draw appropriate conclusions from them, even when conclusions differ from prior beliefs The Sensorimotor Stage (Birth to 2 Years)  Over course of first 2 yrs, intelligence dvlp’s through 6 increasingly complex substages, each one built upon achievements of preceding one  Calls attention to general principle: children’s thinking grows especially rapidly in first few years Substage 1 (Birth to 1 Month)  Infants born w/ many reflexes i.e. when objects move in front of their eyes, they visually track them i.e. when objects placed in their mouths, they suck them  Simple reflexes and perceptual abilities are essential tools for building intelligence  Even during 1 month: begin to modify reflexes to make them more adaptive i.e. birth: suck in ~ way regardless of type of object; few weeks later, adjust sucking according to object in mouth Substage 2 (1 to 4 Months)  Begin to organize separate reflexes into larger beh’s, most of which are centered on own bodies  Instead of having 2 separate reflexes, now can integrate these actions i.e. object touches their palm  can grasp and bring it to mouth  Reflexes serve as building blocks for more complex beh’s Substage 3 (4 to 8 Months)  Increasingly interested in world around them i.e. repetition of actions on env’ that bring pleasurable/interesting results; repeatedly banging rattles  Controversial claim: infants lack object permanence—knowledge that objects cont’ to exist even when they are out of view Substage 4 (8 to 12 Month)  Infants search for hidden objects rather than act as if they had vanished  A-not-B error = tendency to reach where objects have been found before, rather than where they were last hidden  Not until around 1 b-day do infants consistently search first as object’s current location Substage 5 (12 to 18 Months)  Begin to actively and avidly explore potential uses of objects i.e. bang various objects against chair’s tray i.e. dropping various bathroom articles into toilet  Piaget regarded such actions not as bad beh’ but rather as beginnings of scientific experimentation Substage 6 (18 to 24 Months)  Become able to form enduring mental rep’a’ns  1 sign of new capability is deferred limitation—repetition of other people’s beh’ mins, hrs, or days after it occurred The Preoperational Stage (Ages 2 to 7)  Foremost acquisition is dvlpmt of symbolic rep’a’ns  Weaknesses: egocentrism and centration Development of Symbolic Representations  Symbolic representation = use of one object to stand for another i.e. popsicle sticks’ and banana’s shape somewhat resemble those of a gun and telephone receiver  As children dvlp, they rely less on self-generated symbols and more on conventional ones i.e. 5-yr-old plays game involving pirates, they might wear patch over one eye and bandana over their head b/c that is the way pirates are commonly depicted Egocentrism  Egocentrism = perceiving world solely from one’s own POV i.e. Piaget’s three-mountain task: when asked to choose picture that shows what doll sitting in seat across table would see, most children < age 6 chose picture showing how scene looks to them  Same difficulty in communication i.e. preschoolers often talk right past each other; seem blithely unaware that their listener is paying no attention whatsoever to what they are saying  Over course of preoperational period, egocentric speech becomes less common  early sign of progress is children’s verbal quarrels (increasingly frequent during this period)  fact that child’s statements elicit a playmate’s disagreement indicates that playmate is at least paying attention to differing perspective that other child’s comment implies Centration  Centration = focusing on a single, perceptualy striking f/ of an object/event to exclusion of other, less striking f/ i.e. balance scale: asked to predict which side would go down (3 weights closer to fulcrum VS 2 weights further away from the fulcrum), age 5-6 almost always center attention on amount of weight and ignore distances of weights from fulcrum  Observation concept = merely changing appearance/arrangement of objects dN necessarily change their key properties i.e. conservation of liquid quantity, solid quantity, and number  Weaknesses: - focus on static state - ignore transformation performed The Concrete Operations Stage (Ages 7 to 12)  Children begin to reason logically about concrete f/s of the world  Thinking systemically remains very difficult, as does reasoning about hypothetical situations i.e. presented a pendulum frame, a set of string of varying length w/ a loop at each end, and a set of metal weights of varying weight, any of which can be attached to any string - when loop at one end of string attached to a weight, and loop at other end is attached to frame of pendulum, the string can be swung - task is to perform experiments that indicate which factor(s) influence amnt of time it takes the pendulum to swing through a complete arc  most concrete operational children begin their experiments believing that the heaviness of the weight is the most important factor, quite likely the only important one  reflects their limited ability to think systematically or to imagine all possible combos of variables: faster motion might reflect string length / height from which string was dropped The Formal Operations Stage (Age 12 and Beyond)  Ability to think abstractly and to reason hypothetically  Piaget believed that unlike previous 3 stages, formal operations stage is not universal: not all adolescents reach it - ―Each one has his own ideas (and usually he believes they are his own) which liberate him from childhood and allow him to place himself as the equal of adults‖  Attainment of such systematic formal operational reasoning dN mean that adolescents will always reason in advanced ways, but it does, according to Piaget, mark the point at which adolescents attain reasoning powers of intelligent adults Piaget’s Legacy PIAGET’S STAGES OF COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT STAGE AGE NEW WAYS OF KNOWING Infants know the world through their senses and through their actions. Sensorimotor Birth to 2 years For example, they learn what dogs look like and what petting them feels like. Toddlers and young children acq’ the ability to internally rep’ the Preoperational 2-7 years world through lang and mental imagery. They also begin to be able to see the world from other people’s perspectives, not just from their own. Children become able to think logically, not just intuitively. They now Concrete 7-12 years can classify objects into coherent categories and understand that events operational are often influenced by multiple factors, not just one. Adolescents can think systemically and reason about what might be as Formal 12+ years well as what is. This allows them to understand politics, ethics, and operational science fiction, as well as to engage in scientific reasoning.  Remains a very influential approach to cognitive dvlpmt  Provides good overview, w/ countless fascinating observations, of what children’s thinking is like at diff points in dvlpmt  Offers plausible and appealing perspective on children’s nature  Surveys remarkably broad spectrum of dvlpmts and covers entire age span from infancy through adolescence  Crucial weaknesses: 1 - stage model depicts children’s thinking as being more consistent than it is 2 - infants and young children are more cognitively competent than Piaget recognized 3 - Piaget’s theory understates the contribution of the social world to cognitively dvlpmt 4 - Piaget’s theory is vague about the cognitive processes that give rise to children’s thinking and about the mechanisms that produce cognitive growth INFORMATION-PROCESSING THEORIES  Task analysis = identification of goals, relevant info in env’, and potential processing strategies - helps info-processing researchers understand and predict children’s beh’ - emphasis on thinking as an activity that occurs over time, w/ numerous distinct mental op’s underlying a single beh’ - emphasis on structure and processes  Structure = refers to basic organization of cognitive system, including main components of system and their characteristics  Processes = the many specific mental activities, such as rules and strategies, that people use to remember and to solve problems View of Children’s Nature  View children as undergoing cont’ous cognitive change in small increments rather than broadly & abruptly The Child as a Limited-Capacity Processing System  People’s thinking is limited by: memory capacity, efficiency of thought processes, and availability of relevant strategies and knowledge  Cognitive dvlpmt arises from children gradually surmounting their processing limitations through expansion of memory capacity, increasingly efficient execution of basic processes, and acquisition of new strategies and knowledge The Child as Problem Solver  Central: assumption that children are active problem solvers  Problem solving = involves a goal, a perceived obstacle, and a strategy/rule for overcoming the obstacle and attaining the goal  Children’s cognitive flexibility helps them pursue their goals in the face of processing limitations and lack of knowledge - their goals may not always be those that their parents would choose, but even young children show great ingenuity in surmounting w/e obstacles their parents and phys env’ impose Central Developmental Issues  What makes information-processing theories unique is their emphasis on precise descriptions of how change occurs  Seen particularly clearly in their accounts of the dvlpmnt of memory and problem solving The Development of Memory i.) Components of the memory system  3: sensory memory, long-term memory, working memory  Sensory memory = fleeting retention of sights, sounds, and other sensations that have just been exp’d; this info briefly held in raw form until identified and moved to working memory or is lost i.e. child reads sentence about a bird, the visual appearance of letters b-i-r-d enters sensory memory while word is being identified  Long-term memory = info retained on an enduring basis i.e. child’s general knowledge about birds  Working memory = aka short-term memory; what we use when we are actively thinking, a kind of workspace in which info from sensory memory and L-T memory is brought together, attended to, and actively processed i.e. word bird on the page and boy’s knowledge about birds would be brought together in S-T memory to help interpret the sentence’s meaning  Distinguish among 3 b/c they differ in: - length of time they can retain info - how much info they can store - neural mechanisms through which they operate - course of dvlpmt  Sensory memory: - can hold moderate amount of info for a fraction of a second - visual cortex especially active for sights, whereas auditory cortex especially active for sounds - capacity relatively constant over much of dvlpmt  Working memory: - depending on task and indvdl’s abilities, age, and knowledge of material, can hold and operate 1-10 items (words, #s, etc.) for periods of a few seconds to a minute - 3 subsystems: 1) visual-spatial sys for storing visual info, 2) verbal sys for storing auditory info, and 3) executive sys for manipulating attention and ctrl’g action - visual info  network of right-hemisphere areas of frontal & parietal lobes - auditory info  corresponding areas in left hemisphere - executive processes such as manipulation of attention  prefrontal cortex - basic organization of S-T memory into these 3 subsystems seems to be constant at least from age 6 through adulthood - capacity and speed of op’ of all 3 i˄’s greatly over course of childhood and adolescence  Long-term memory: - can retain unlimited amnt of info for unlimited periods of time - active area at any given time depends on kind of info being processed i.e. hippocampus and temporal lobe of cortex  memory for facts about the world i.e. motor cortex and cerebellum  memory for actions - facts, skills, and other contents in L-T memory i˄ vastly over course of dvlpmt ii.) Explanations of memory development  Try to explain both processes that allow memory to be as good as it is at each age and the limits that prevent it from being better  3 types of capabilities: basic processes, strategies,
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