Cognitive Development May Progress Gradually or Through a Series of Stages.

Topics: Jean Piaget, Theory of cognitive development, Cognition Pages: 5 (1503 words) Published: January 6, 2011
Cognitive development can be defined as the growth of our knowledge in understanding the world around us. This growth can be developed gradually, in other words, it is seen as a continuous process by collecting more information. Another way of developing cognitively is through a series of stages which involves some sort of revolution from one period to another in one’s lifetime. Jean Piaget, a cognitive developmentalist believed that humans go through a series of stages in life in order to reach their full cognitive ability. In this essay, we would briefly talk about Piaget’s Stage Theory and its criticisms.

Piaget divided his theory into four different stages of development. The first one is known as the sensorimotor stage which is applied to infants for approximately the first two years of their lives. At this stage, infants discover the world mainly by their senses and actions. One of the main concepts Piaget penned is object permanence. This is the knowledge of the existence of objects even when we cannot directly sense it. Piaget suggested that babies lack this concept through his study; A not B task. In this study, the experimenter hides a toy under Box A then the baby would search for it under Box A. This procedure was repeated and eventually in front of the baby, the experimenter hid the toy under Box B. The baby searched for it under Box A instead of B even though they saw the experimenter hid it under Box B. Therefore, this study shows that the baby lacked the concept of object permanence. They are known to be in a state of solipsism, also known as the failure to differentiate between themselves and the surroundings. Based on observation conducted on his own children (1952), Piaget divided this stage into six different sub stages.

However, Piaget’s claims on object permanence have been criticized. Baillargeon et al. (1985) found in their research that infants as young as three-and-a-half months have developed the ability of object permanence. This was backed up by Bower & Wishart (1972) whereby they discovered that even after the lights were switched off, the babies continued to search for the object shown. Hence, they do possess the ability of object permanence.

The second stage is the preoperational stage which occurs when the child is aged 2 to 7. On this stage, the child solves problems by using symbols and develops the skill for languages. According to Piaget, the child is egocentric which means he sees the world from his standpoint but not others. The solution to this is to apply operational intelligence. The process of solving problems by using logic. Another concept which Piaget is concerned with is conservation. It is the understanding that any quantity remains the same even if physical changes is made to the objects holding the medium. In addition to these concepts, centration, also defined as the focus on a single aspect of a problem at a time. Piaget states that at this stage, the child fails to decenter.

Conversely, Borke and Hughes (1975) found contradicting evidence against Piaget’s on his study of the three mountains task. They used the same elements of the task and discovered that children had no problem with identifying the perspectives of the others when the task is shown in a meaningful context. Hence, from the result obtained, Hughes found that the children did not display any characteristics of being egocentric. Furthermore, Gelman (1979) found in his study that four year olds altered their explanations of things to get their message across clearer to a blindfolded listener. If Piaget’s concept of egocentrism was correct then, this shouldn’t have happened. In addition, Flavell suggested an alternative to this issue by coining the Level 1 and Level 2 perspective-taking abilities. In Level 1, one thinks about viewing objects but not the different perspectives that can be seen of the objects while in Level 2, one is able to imagine the views of the objects from...

References: 1. Gross, R. (2005). Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour Hodder Education.
2. Ziegler, P. M. F. (2007). Fundamentals of Development: The Psychology of Childhood, Psychology Press.
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