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Chapter 4

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Margaret Ingate

Chapter 4: Theories of Cognitive Development Theories: 1. Developmental theories provide a framework for understanding important phenomena 2. Developmental theories raise crucial questions about human nature 3. Developmental theories lead to a better understanding of children Piaget’s Theory - Studies of cognitive development - View of children’s nature - His approach is often labeled constructivist because it depicts children as constructing knowledge for themselves in response to their experiences Three of the most important of children’s constructive processes (Piaget) 1. Generating hypothesis 2. Performing experiments 3. Drawing conclusions from observations Central Developmental Issues Nature and Nurture - Adaptation: the tendency to respond to the demands of the environment in ways that meet one’s goals - Organization: the tendency to integrate particular observations into coherent knowledge Sources of Continuity The main sources of continuity are three processes 1. Assimilation: the process by which people translate incoming information into a form that fits concepts they already understand 2. Accommodation: the process by which people adapt current knowledge structures in response to new experiences 3. Equilibration: the process by which children (or other people) balance assimilation and accommodation to create stable understanding Sources of Discontinuity The following are the central properties of Piaget’s stage theory: 1. Qualitative change  children of different ages think in qualitatively different ways 2. Broad applicability  the type of thinking characteristics of each stage influences children’s thinking across diverse topics and contexts 3. Brief transitions  children pass through a brief transitional period in which they fluctuate between the type of thinking characteristic of the new, more advanced stage and the type of thinking characteristic of the old, less advanced one. 4. Invariant sequence  everyone progresses through the stages in the same order and never skips a stage 4 stages of cognitive development 1. Sensorimotor stage  the period (birth to 2 years) within Piaget’s theory in which intelligence is expressed through sensory and motor abilities 2. Preoperational stage  the period (2 to 7 years) within Piaget’s theory in which children become able to represent their experiences in language, mental imagery, and symbolic thought 3. Concrete operational stage  the period (7 to 12 years) within Piaget’s theory in which children become able to reason logically about concrete objects and events 4. Formal operational stage  the period (12 years and beyond) within Piaget’s theory in which people become able to think about abstractions and hypothetical situations The Sensorimotor Stage (Birth to Age 2 Years) - Object permanence: the knowledge that objects continue to exist even when they are out of view - A-not-B error: the tendency to reach for a hidden object where it was last found rather than in the new location where it was last hidden - Deferred imitation: the repetition of other people’s behavior a substantial time after it originally occurred The Preoperational Stage (Ages 2 to 7) - Symbolic representation: the use of one object to stand for another - Egocentrism: the tendency to perceive the world solely from one’s own point of view - Centration: the tendency to focus on a single perceptually striking feature of an object or event - Conservation concept: the idea that merely changing the appearance of objects does not change their key properties The Concrete Operations Stage (Ages 7 to 12) - At around age 7, according to Piaget, children begin to reason logically about concrete features of the world The Formal Operations Stage (Age 12 and Beyond) - Formal operation thinking, which includes the ability to think abstractly and to reason hypothetically, is the pinnacle of the Piagetian stage progression. Piaget’s Legacy 1. The 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 understands the contribution of the social world to cognitive development 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 - Task analysis: the research technique of identifying goals, relevant information in the environment, and potential processing strategies for a problem - Structure: the basic organization of the cognitive system, including its main components and their characteristics - Processes: the specific mental activities, such as rules and strategies, that people use to remember and to solve problems View of Children’s Nature The Child as a Limited-Capacity Processing System 1. Expansion of the amount of information they can process at one time 2. Increasingly efficient execution of basic processes 3. Acquisition of new strategies and knowledge The Child as Problem Solver - Problem solving: the process of attaining a goal by using a strategy to overcome an obstacle Central Developmental Issues Components of the memory system - Sensory memory: the fleeting retention of sights, sounds, and other sensations that have just been experienced - Long-term memory: information retained on an enduring basis - Working (short-term) memo
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