Theories of Cognitive Development

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Theories of cognitive development: Assignment one.
‘Compare and contrast the cognitive theories of the theorists – Piaget, Vygotsky & Bruner, criticising the basis of each theory’

This essay will be comparing and contrasting the cognitive theories and approaches of Piaget, Vygotsky and Bruner. The cognitive approach is based on how as individuals process information, past experiences, memory and perception. A definition of cognition is “how we consider information that we perceive from our senses and formulate a response” (Doherty & Hughes 2009). Previously, cognition was generalised as the involvement of mental structures and processes in which is used to gain knowledge. However, more modern views to the cognitive theory associate it with an emotional state. The three theorists that this essay will be looking in to are Bruner, Piaget and Vygotsky. Bruner believed that interactions had to be linked with a social context, and that there was no one formula applicable to all. Piaget believed that children learned about the world through exploration of it, and Vygotsky believed that development was at its highest when children were amongst more skilled and experienced learners There are some clear similarities and differences between the three theorists. Starting with Piaget. Piaget saw cognitive development from a biological perspective, and believed that children went through different stages of cognitive development based on fixed ages and believed in children learning through action and exploration of their environment (Cherry 2008). In Piaget’s theory, cognitive development is represented as unfolding in four stages. From 0-2 years was the sensori-motor stage, which states that babies and very young infants learn through their senses and actions. From 2-7 years was the pre-operational stage, which is understood as young children learning through experiences with the objects in their environments and symbols (Cherry 2008). Next from 7-11 was the concrete operational stage in which he believed that the children would access information to make sense of the environment around them. The final stage in Piaget’s theory was the formal operations stage. This was from 11 years and upwards, and was about how they now learn to make use of abstract thinking (Cherry 2008). Whilst Piaget was a highly respected theorist, there were heavy criticisms about his work and findings. It has been argued that children at a variety of ages are more cognitively developed than what Piaget proposed; (Siegler & Alibali 2005). Another argument towards Piaget’s work was that he believed young children to have poorly developed memories. However, Bhatt and Rovee-Collier (1996) study using a piece of string attached to a baby’s leg while lying in a cot with a mobile suspended overheard found that 3 month old baby’s remember up to a week later. One of the biggest criticisms to his work was the appearance of stages of cognitive development. Whilst Piaget strongly believed that cognitive development appears in stages as previously discussed, and is largely unaffected by external factors. More common studies have shown more continuity and that the stages are not so rigid, and that the cognitive abilities can be altered by training and experience. (Siegler & Alibali 2005). Another criticism is that Piaget believed that social context had little contribution towards cognitive development. The criticism against this is that Piaget ignores social and emotional contributions and that Piaget’s theories are too independent and isolated (Meadows,1995). There are a number of other criticisms about Piaget’s work such as his views on culture, egocentrism, imitation and theory of mind. However, one of the biggest criticisms of his work is that Piaget, while carrying out all of his research and studies, actually used his own three children rather than subjects in which he had no emotional attachment towards. This has been heavily criticised as his work...
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