Cognition is the term used to describe the mental activity through which human beings acquire,
remember, and learn to use knowledge. Congnition includes many mental processes like perception,
attention, learning, memory and reasoning.
Piaget’s theory of cognitive development emphasizes developmental changes in the organisation or
structure of children’s thinking processes.
Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory of cognitive development suggests that a child’s interactions with
the social world produce advances in thinking and understanding.
Piaget’s theory of Cognitive Development
Piaget helped Binet develop first standaradized IQ tests for children and made two important
observations. 1. That children of the same age got the same answers wrong 2. The errors children
make differed in systematic ways from those older or younger
He thought these revealed distinct age related ways of thinking and understanding the world.
Piaget relied on interviews and observations. Interviews= question and have them explain their thinking.
Observation= used very young, present problem watch them try to solve
Piaget’s theory popular in 1960s. Proposed that throughout development the child acquires new
ways of thinking and understanding the world. This was alt. To behaviourism which focused on
observations of how their cognitive abilities change as they grow.
Piaget’s Main tenet: The Child Actively Seeks Knowledge
Does not wait for environment to provide knowledge like behaviourism says. He was really
interested in the development of knowledge about logical properties of the world.
Piaget believed that over the course of development, children’s knowledge of the world gets
organized into increasingly complex cognitive structures...which is an organized group of interrelated
memories, thoughts and strategies child uses in trying to understand a situation.
Much of his theory was built around the schema which is an organized unit of knowledge and
collectively they form the knowledge base that a person uses to understand environment
Organization for piaget involves the combination of simple mental structures into more complex
systems which is a key feature of children’s developing knowledge.
As children grow they switch from using schemata on overt physical activities to those based on
internal mental ones which is called operations. With development, operations are used to alter and
combine schemata to form more complex behaviours.
Large scale orgazational changes are stages. 4 stages in life. Sensorimotor, Preoperational, concrete
operational and formal operations.
Modifying schemas in relation to experiences – adaptation. To understand a new experience they try
assimilation which is applying their existing schemas to the new experience. Accomodation is
modifying existing scheme to fit the characteristics of the new situation.
Stages of Cognitive Development
Because stages are built through experience, they do not reach at exactly the same time and age Sensorimotor stage spans for two years (first 2) and is when children build on basic reflexes by
interacting with the environment and form schemas. By the end of two years they begin to form mental
representations of objects and events and use this information in developing new behaviours and solving
Sensorimotor divided in 6 subcategories: 1. Basic reflex activity 2. Primary circular Reactions 3.
Secondary circular Reactions 4. Coordination of secondary schemata 5. Tertiary Circular Reactions 6.
Inventing new means by mental combination
Over this stage, they learn about objects including object permanence: the realization that objects
continue to exists even when they are out of sight
Substage 1- Infants become more proficient in the use of their innate reflexes (grasping, sucking). Over
first month of life many involuntary behaviours are replaced by behaviours that are similar but controlled
voluntarily. Infants only look at objects directly in front of them. ( birth to one month)
Substage 2- They produce repetitive behaviours that are focused on the infant’s own body. They repeat
actions that are pleasurable. If toy vanishes, will not look for it. Objects don’t have existence of their own.
(1 to 4 months)
Substage 3- Interested in making things happen outside his own body. Repetitive behaviours focused on
external objects. Baby is capable of combining schemes and shows some awareness of object
permanence. Will search for partially visible but not covered object. ( Four to Eight Months)
Substage 4- More sophisticated behaviours directed toward objects and reflect intentionality. Able to
plan to attain a goal. Beginning of problem solving. Child will search for completely covered objects but A
not B searching if moved. (8 to 12 months)
Substage 5- Use trial and error to learn more about the properties of objects and to solve problems.
“little scientist” Can produce simililar but not exact behaviour like before. Understands permanence of
object hidden from view but have trouble following more than one displacement of an object. Invisible
displacement still not understood. ( Twelve to Eighteen months)
Substage 6- Inventing new means by mental combination. Beginning of symbolic thought. Can attain
goal by mentally combining schemas. Deferred imitation and full understanding of object permanence. (
18 to 24 months).
Piaget criticized for only measuring manual searching- poor hand eye coordination, could be wrong.
Rene Baillargeon tried to measure how much infants understood about objects before capable of
manually searching for them. Impossible vs. Possible event. Infants look longer at impossible event. This
suggests they understood object permanence before Piaget thought.
Core knowledge systems are understandings about the world so fundamental to cognitive development
that they appear early in life (like physical laws).
The violation of expectation method is a method for testing purposes to test infants’ even knowledge.
Infants look longer at unexpected events.
An issue is that although an infant looks longer, we don’t know exactly why they do it. Some argue that
perceptual processes rather than conceptual processes explain infant’s longer looking at impossible event
Preoperational stage is the child’s development of symbolic function.
Preconceptual Substage: (2 to 4 years) Emergence of symbolic capabilities is evident in their rapid
development of language, interest in imaginative play and use of deferred imitation. Animistic thinking tends to attribute life to inanimate objects. In this substage they also view the world
from their own perspective and have difficulty seeing things from someone else’s point of view=
Piaget’s mountain task was problematic for 3 reasons: 1. He used simple models that lacked clear
functions. 2. Choosing the appropriate drawings may be beyond the ability of a young child. 3. Choosing
the correct perspective may not be an activity that makes sense to young children.
Borke made two changes and got results that showed most children between three and a half and five
were able to provide correct answers to the questions. A. Placed familiar things to make mountains more
distinctive and B. Asked children to rotate small model of display to present the appropriate view rather
than reconstruct the display or choose from drawing.