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Chapter 4


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University of British Columbia
PSYC 315
Andrew Baron

THEORIES OF COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT Chapter 4 – Theories of Cognitive development Piaget’s Theory  Children as “scientists” Discontinuous process = transitions are discontinuous intellectual leap  Qualitative change: different age children think in qualitatively different ways  Broad applicability: each stage influences child’s across diverse topics  Brief transition: fluctuate between old and new stage  Invariant sequence: everyone goes through same stages in same order 1. Sensorimotor stage (birth -2): intelligence is expressed through sensory & motor abilities  Gain knowledge by exploring the world w/ motor functions  Intelligence is bound to immediate perception & action  Infants are born with many reflexes that they use to explore the world w/ o EX. Sucking, grasping, flailing…  Then they begin accommodating their action to the environment  Reflexes serve as building blocks for complex behaviors  First few months = centered around their body  Later on = more involved with their surroundings (repetition of action on environment i.e. banging table)  >8 months lack object permanence: knowledge that object continues to exist even though it is not in sight  A not B error: tendency to reach for hidden object where it was last found rather than in new hidden location  Deferred imitation (18-24 months): repetition of other’s behavior a substantial time after it originally occurred 2. Preoperational stage (2-7): represent experience in language, mental imagery & symbolic thought  Able to remember experiences for a longer time  Form sophisticated concepts  Cannot form certain reasoning ideas or abstract ideas  Symbolic representation: use of one object to stand for another  Egocentrism: tendency to perceive the world solely from their own P.O.V  Centration: focusing on a central feature of an object  Conservation concept: merely changing appearance of object does not change their key properties (quantity of liquid, solid & number) o Fail in conservation tasks 3. Concrete operational stage (7-12): able to reason logically about concrete objects & events  Understand conservation concept  Though cannot think abstractly yet  Can’t think systematically 4. Formal operational stage (12+): can think deeply about abstractions and purely hypothetical situations  Can perform systematic scientific experiments and draw conclusions  This stage is not reached by all everyone Strengths:  Good overview of child development  Offer many good observations  Gives perspective on children’s nature  Covers broad spectrum of development  Covers entire age span up to adolescence Weaknesses:  Stage model depicts children’s thinking as being more consistent than it is o Children thinking is in fact more variable  Infants & young children are more cognitively competent than Piaget thought  Vague about cognitive processes that give rise to children’s thinking and about mechanics of cognitive growth Information-Processing Theories Task analysis: identification of goals, relevant information in the environment and potential processing strategies  Precise specification of the processes involved in children’s thinking  Emphasis on thinking as an activity over time with distinct mental operations underlying a behavior o Cognitive growth is continuous – occurring in increments  Emphasis on structure & processes o Structure: basic organization of cognitive system including main components of the stem and their characteristics o Processes: vast number of specific mental activities (strategies) that people use to aid memory & solve problems Child as limited capacity processing system  Expansion of amount of info they can process at one time  Increasingly efficient execution of basic processes  Acquisition of new strategies & knowledge Child as problem solver: involves a goal, perceived obstacles & strategy to solve it  Cognitive flexibility helps children attain goals Development of memory  Sensory memory: fleeting retention of sights, sounds, & other sensations that are just experienced o Very limited – holds info for about a fraction of a second  Long-term memory: information retained on an enduring basis o Can ret
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