Theories of Cognitive Development:
An insight to the theories of Piaget, Information-processing and Vygotsky
How do we learn? How do we grow? Over the years, psychologists have studied to great lengths the processes that humans go through as they progress from infancy to adulthood. Several theories have emerged over time with three prominent ones. Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky produced two important and distinct theories. Another important theory, the information-processing theory, presents a completely different point of view. Each theory has is differences from the other and gives insight into the developing human mind.
Jean Piaget believed that all children are curious and act as scientists in their never-ending quest to build understanding about the world around them. He theorized that children use schemes, which are constructs that children categorize events with. Examples of schemes would be “play things”, “things I eat” and “things I don’t like”. Piaget’s next term was assimilation, which is when children add things to one scheme or another, example, a child having peanut butter for the first time and placing it in “things I eat”. Accomodation is when a child modifies a scheme because they have assimilated something that requires the entire scheme to be slightly redefined i.e. when a child learns that certain objects needs to be grasped with two hands instead of only one. (Kail/Cavanaugh, 133)
The focus of Piaget’s study was on the four main stages of development. He believed that an individual goes through four main changes/stages in their life at birth and ages two, seven, and eleven. The first stage is the Sensorimotor stage. From birth to approximately age two, children are highly aware of stimuli and begin to figure out how to recreate them and what each one means. Senses and motor reflexes begin development. Also, object permanence, the understanding that objects exist when they are not in sight, begins to develop in this stage. Until approximately month 8 children will see an object and react to it, but if it is covered, the child will think it has ceased to exist and find interest in something else. This is a prime example of the adage “Out of sight, out of mind.” From 8 months to about 12 months, if there object were to be covered, the child would then search for it, not understanding that it is simply under a cloth, thus making the game “Peek-a-boo” enjoyable for the child. Piaget states that it takes until about 18 months for object permanence to be established. Preoperational Thinking is the second of Piaget’s stages. This stage focuses mostly on egocentrism, which is a child difficulty to see situations for another point of view. “Preoperational children simply do not comprehend that other people differ in their ideas, convictions, and emotions” (Kail/Cavanaugh, 135) During the Preoperational Stage, children may begin to project their feelings onto inanimate objects, which is referred to as animism. At approximately age 7, a child enters the Concrete Operational Stage. This stage marks the beginning of the recognition that people experience things in different ways, thus beginning to give the child a sense of individuality. Here, the child begins to use abstract thinking and making decisions rationally based on observed phenomena. The child is now able to understand 4 + 2 = 6 and 6 – 4 = 2, as they have the ability to reverse operational thought. “The limitation of the third stage of cognitive development is that operations are only carried out on concrete objects, and limited to two characteristics at the same time.” (Lin, 2002)
The fourth and final stage of Piaget’s theory is the Formal Operational Period. This period lasts from around age eleven to the end of life. No longer a child, the adolescent is capable of complex abstract thought and logic. Concrete evidence is no longer necessary to base judgments and decisions. Complex algebraic manipulation is...
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