Egocentrism in Young Children

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“What does psychological research tell us about ‘egocentrism’ in young children?” “Egocentrism is the tendency of children to cognize their environment only in terms of their own point of view” (Castillo, R.J, 1954). This technical meaning for the term was given by Jean Piaget who suggests that it is a state of mind where the child attempts to understand the world from their own point of view and fails to realise that other people’s points of view are different from theirs. Egocentrism is the unawareness of the child to be able to understand the difference from objective to subjective parts of experiences. In this essay, will be discussing different research studies looking at egocentrism in young children especially Piaget’s preoperational stage. I will then look at studies such as Dunn’s and Piaget’s perspective tasks, theory for mind and zone of proximal development. Through developmental psychology, we can understand how young children interpret cognitively the world around them and the way in which they form relationships. Many people have different views on the cognitive development of children. Some suggest reasons the way children behave changes through time and that reasons differ amongst cultures. However, psychological research allows us to take such views and find scientific explanations for such behaviour in children. Developmental theories in psychology explain both nature and nurture and the contributions they play, and how the two influences work together. Explanations of development in children emphasise biology and claim that behaviour is innate, but fails to take into consideration factors such as difficulties in conducting research with infants and that nature influences can occur at any age and under different circumstances for different children. Another influence on the development of a child’s cognitive state is the environment which includes both physical and social aspects. Skinners behaviourist approach suggests that the environment shapes behaviour through a way he describes as ‘conditioning’. This theory suggests that behaviour which is rewarded and positively reinforced, will more likely be repeated. “Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select – doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant – chief and yes, even beggar man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations and race of his ancestors.” (John B. Watson, 1930). However such research neglects individuals differences when looking at egocentrism and only allows us to understand simple behaviours, therefore does not give a true picture of the active role an infant plays in their own development. Going back to Piaget’s constructivist view on egocentrism in children, he explains on the other hand that young children learn by exploring and trying to make sense of the world in their own ways. “According to Piaget, as children develop they acquire cognitive structures – mental representations or rules that are used for understand and dealing with the world and for thinking about and solving problems.” (Martin, Carlson, Buskist, 2010). He argues that there are two types of cognitive structures called concepts and schemata. Schemata are cognitive frameworks which allow information to be organised and interpreted mentally. He also says that as a child develops an understanding of the environment, they develop mental structures which he calls concepts. These concepts are seen as rules which describe environmental events and their relationship to other concepts. This theory explains that assimilation and accommodation helps a child adapt to their environment. Assimilation is the way in which people take material from the environment and interpret it in their own ways by modifying it to fit the schema already in their mind. Accommodation is the manner in which new...
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