Psychology: Piaget and Skinner

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Assignment 1

The cognitive perspective is a theory that attempts to explain human behaviour by understanding our thought process. Our information process is compared to that of a computer: Inputting, storing and receiving data. One of the most famous cognitive psychologists was a scientist called Jean Piaget (1896-1980). According to Piaget, understanding comes in the form of ‘schemas’ (Fritscher, 2011). Schemas are cognitive structures that represent certain aspects of the world (pre-conceived ideas for things). Schemas develop through at least two processes: assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is simply adding new information into an existing schema but keeping the general idea the same. Accommodation is the process in which we change our existing schema. The person will try to fit the old schema round the new information but in the end they just accommodate a new schema (Atherton, 2011). Through observing and listening to his own children, Piaget proposed that their thinking does not develop smoothly; instead they go through stages. “Each stage is characterized by an overall structure in terms of which the main behaviour patterns can be explained” (Gross, page 739). Stage one is called ‘The sensorimotor stage’ (0 – 2 years old). At this age, children use sensory and motor information to make schemas. They becomes self aware and they see object permanence (McLeod, 2010). Stage two is called ‘The pre-operational stage’ (2 – 7 years old). The child is now beginning to talk and can interact with others using speech and other forms of communication. They start forming their own viewpoints from what they know but they are egocentric and don’t adapt well to others viewpoints. Piaget’s most famous experiment ‘the three mountains task’ (1940’s) demonstrated such egocentrism. The experiment consisted of a child sitting at a table in front of three different mountains. One had snow on top, one had a hut at the top and the other had a red cross on the...
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