Jean Piaget

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Now known as one of the trailblazers of developmental psychology, Jean Piaget initially worked in a wide range of fields. Early in his career Piaget studied the human biological processes. These processes intrigued Piaget so much that he began to study the realm of human knowledge. From this study he was determined to uncover the secrets of cognitive growth in humans. Jean Piaget's research on the growth of the human mind eventually lead to the formation of the cognitive development theory which consists of three main components: schemes, assimilation and accommodation, and the stage model. The theory is best known for Piaget’s construction of the discontinuous stage model which was based on his study of children and how the processes and products of their minds develop over time. According to this stage model, there are four levels of cognitive growth: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational. While a substantial amount of psychologists presently choose to adhere to the constructs of the information processing approach, Piaget’s ground breaking cognitive development view is still a valuable asset to the branch of developmental psychology. Whether or not Piaget uncovered any answers to the mysteries of human knowledge is disputable, but one belief that few dispute is that Jean Piaget did indeed lay a strong foundation for future developmental psychologists. The cognitive development theory is Jean Piaget’s attempt to explain how the human mind develops. A common description of Piaget’s view of the mind is that it is, an active biological system that (uses) environmental information to fit with or adjust to its own existing mental structures, (Adelani, Behle, Leftwich, and White, 1990). Now, to describe how this biological system develops, Piaget breaks the development process down into three main components: schemes, assimilation and accommodation, and the stage model of cognitive growth. Schemes, are the structures or organizations of actions as they are transferred by repetition in similar or analogous circumstances, (Piaget & Inhelder, 1969). In simple terms, schemes guide thoughts based on prior experiences, thus, serving as the building blocks of cognitive growth. Except, with simple schemes, which are the first schemes to develop in a child’s life, the child has very little, if any, past experiences to guide his or her thoughts. Therefore, early thoughts depend almost entirely on the new born child’s reflexes to senses. These basic schemes later combine with each other in order to develop more complex schemes that are more capable of guiding the child than reflexes. However, the complexity of the schemes depend upon how well and how much an individual either assimilates or accommodates information that is new to the mind. If schemes are considered building blocks, then the assimilation and accommodation processes can best be described as the construction crews. These two processes aid in cognitive growth by arranging the new information with schemes that are already present in the individual’s mind. The more new information the child assimilates or accommodates, the less his or her schemes will have to rely on physical objects to create cognitive operations. Of course, according to Piaget’s stage model, this reliance on physical objects will not decrease until the latter stages of the child’s cognitive growth. While both the assimilation and accommodation processes are responsible for establishing a perfect cognitive fit between the scheme and the information, each completes the process in different manners, hence the need for two different terms. Assimilation reconfigures the new data to fit with existing schemes, and the accommodation process restructures a child’s schemes to accommodate the new environmental information. As Piaget states, Accommodation [is] the adjustment of the scheme to the particular situation. He goes on to give an example of the two processes: An infant...
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