Three Theories of Cognitive Development
The Swiss psychologist and philosopher Jean Piaget (1896-1980) is well-known for his work towards the cognitive sciences. Arguably one of his most important contributions involves his theory of cognitive development. In this theory, thinking progresses through four distinct stages between infancy and adulthood. Similar in scope to Piaget’s theory is Information Processing, in which human thinking is based on both mental hardware and mental software (Kail, Cavanaugh). A final theory on cognitive development was established by the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934). Vygotsky proposed that development is a collaborative effort between child and partner. While these three theories attempt to explain a similar topic in different manners, each can be considered an important aspect to cognitive development in infancy and early childhood. Through analyzing and comparing these theories, scientists are able to better understand how child development occurs and the process it takes in creating a functional human being.
Piaget’s Theory Children are naturally curious: this is the claim Piaget proposed when explaining that children of all ages create theories about how the world around them works. They accomplish this through the use of “schemes,” referring to mental structures that organize information and regulate behavior. Infants group objects based on the actions they can perform on them. Later in development, schemes become based on functional or conceptual relationships, not action. This means that schemes of related objects, events, and ideas are present throughout development (Kail, Cavanaugh). Schemes change constantly, adapting to children’s experiences. Intellectual adaptation involves two key processes that work together: assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is the process of taking in new information into previously existing schemes. Accommodation involves altering existing schemes in