Cognitive Development

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Critically evaluate Piaget's stages of development
This essay will state Piaget’s four stages of cognitive development. Cognitive development is the construction of thought processes, including remembering, problem solving, and decision-making, from childhood through adolescence to adulthood. Piaget’s hypothesis is that the four stages of cognitive development are; the sensorimotor stage, which ranges from birth to two years old. This essay will discuss aspects of this stage including; Object permanence, Schemas and equilibration and assimilation. The preoperational stage which ranges from two to seven years old. This essay will evaluate Piaget’s hypothesis on conservation and the three mountains and counters task. The concrete operational stage, which ranges from seven to eleven years old, this essay, will evaluate Piaget’s theories on abstract thought, and the decline of egocentrism. Finally the formal operational stage which ranges from eleven years onwards. However there has been significant evidence that both dispute and support Piaget’s theories. Piaget hypothesized that the sensorimotor stage ranges from birth to approximately two years old. This is the stage where children, or neonates, learn primarily through their senses (sensori) and by doing (motor) e.g. shaking a rattle. On observing his own children, this was the foundation of Piaget’s theories. A major sub-stage in the sensorimotor stage is a child’s awareness of object permanence. Object permanence is the term used to describe a neonate’s ability to understand that an object exists, even if it cannot be seen or heard anymore. Piaget (1954) argued that object permanence occurs in stages, from the age of zero to four months, a neonate is not aware of objects to know that they have disappeared. From four to five months a neonate starts to notice objects and follow their movements, however if the object has been covered by a cloth they believe the object has ceased to exist. From eight to twelve months a neonate will be able to retrieve an item that has been completely covered, from the place where they last saw it. From twelve to eighteen months, they can retrieve an object that has been hidden, retrieved, and then hidden again in a different place. However in criticism, Bower and Wishart (1972) carried out their own experiments on neonates to test Piaget’s theory of object permanence. Bower and Wishart found that how the object is made to disappear strongly influences the child’s response. They found that if an infant is looking and reaching for an object & the lights are turn off, they will continue to search for the object for a further one and a half minutes, which strongly suggest that a baby remember that the object is still there. To demonstrate this viewpoint Bower (1977) also found that a child between six and seven months will reach for an object if it is partially hidden. Contradicting Piaget’s theory that this stage of object permanence doesn’t develop until around eight months. Another major aspect of the sensorimotor stage is a child’s ability to assimilate. Piaget believes that we are all born with ‘schemas’ which are inborn strategies for development. Barrillargeon (1987) also carried out her own experiments to test Piaget’s theory of object permanence. Neonates of three months old were introduced to a truck rolling down a track and behind a screen. A box was then introduced either beside the track or on the track as to block the truck from rolling down. The screen was then replaced, and the box removed from the track. The truck was once again rolled down the track and behind the screen. In both events the truck passed behind the screen unimpeded. This however would have been impossible if the box was still placed on the track. Baillargeon found the infant would look significantly longer at this event, than when the box was placed beside the track. Concluding that they have an understanding of objects still existing even if it is out of...
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