Cognitive development may progress gradually or through a series of stages. Against this background, critically evaluate Piaget’s stage theory and its related evidence.
What is cognitive development? Cognitive development is the process of acquiring intelligence and increasingly advanced thought and problem solving ability from infancy to adulthood. Piaget's theory of cognitive development is an inclusive theory about the nature and development of human intelligence first developed by Jean Piaget. It is primarily known as a developmental stage theory, but in fact, it deals with the nature of knowledge itself and how humans come gradually to acquire it, construct it, and use it. Moreover, Piaget(1969) claims the idea that cognitive development is at the center of human organism and language is contingent on cognitive development. Below, there is first a short description of Piaget's views(1969) about the nature of intelligence and the description of the stages through which it develops until maturity.
The first stage is sensorimotor stage (infancy). This stage ranges from birth to 2 years old. The infant uses senses and motor abilities to understand the world, beginning with reflexes and ending with complex combinations of sensor motor skills. The child relies on seeing, touching, sucking, feeling, and using their senses to learn things about themselves and the environment. Piaget(1969) calls this the sensorimotor stage to reflect his belief that knowledge is build up from sensory perception and motor actions .An important discovery during the sensorimotor stage is the concept of "object permanence”. Object permanence is the awareness that an object continues to exist even when it is not in view. After first year of exploration, the child exhibits repeating search as it searches for objects concealed in places found earlier, leading to object permanence towards the end of this stage. The child may also show evidence of deferred imitation, whereby it is able to imitate behaviour seen before. Piaget(1969) argues that the child cannot hold firmly the concept that objects still exist when hidden or taken away until the age of 8 months. However, Piaget(1969) underestimated the abilities of infants in number of ways. Most researchers agree that children possess many of the abilities at an earlier age than Piaget(1969) suspected. For example Bower (1982) hid a toy behind a screen .When the screen was lifted a few second later; the toy was no longer there. Infants who were three or four months old showed surprised. This explains that some aspect of object permanence is present much earlier than was claimed by Piaget(1969). This view has that a child does not have object permanence until 8 months has been challenged by Bower and Wishard in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.Piaget(1969) is also been criticised for sticking to the idea of understanding the distinct stage or periods of development (Flawell et al 1993) Research has disputed Piaget's argument(1969) that all children will automatically or independently move to the next stage of development as they mature. Some data suggests that environmental factors may play a role in the development of formal operations. Preoperational stage (Toddler and Early Childhood) thought is the second stage in Piaget’s theory. The most important development at this time is language. The development of languages is associated with the cognitive advances of preoperational children. In this stage, a child ranging from 2 to 7 years of age learns how to talk and walk to understand their bodies. Children at this time use symbols, they can pretend. The preoperational stage is divided into the preconceptual (2-4 years) and the intuitive (4-7years). In the preoperational stage, children use language and try to make sense of the world but have a much less experience mode of thought than adults. In the intuitive phase, the child slowly moves away from drawing conclusions...
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