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  • 1. Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development
  • 2. Outline
    • (1) General introduction.
    • (2) Sensory-Motor period.
    • (3) Pre-operational period.
    • (4) Concrete operations.
    • (5) Formal operations.
    • (6) Evaluation.
  • 3. I: Terms and concepts.
  • 4. Genetic Epistemology: A constructivist theory
    • No innate ideas...not a nativist theory.
    • Nor is the child a “tabula rasa” with the “real” world out there waiting to be discovered.
    • Instead, mind is constructed through interaction with the environment; what is real depends on how developed one’s knowledge is
  • 5. How does Piaget describe developmental change?
    • Development occurs in stages, with a qualitative shift in the organization and complexity of cognition at each stage.
    • Thus, children not simply slower, or less knowledgeable than adults  instead, they understand the world in a qualitatively different way.
    • Stages form an invariant sequence.
  • 6. Stages of Cognitive Development
    • (1) Sensorimotor (0-2 years)
    • (2) Pre-operational (2-7 years)
    • (3) Concrete Operational (7-11 years)
    • (4) Formal Operational (11-16 years)
  • 7. What develops? Cognitive structures
    • Cognitive structures are the means by which experience is interpreted and organized: reality very much in the eye of the beholder
    • Early on, cognitive structures are quite basic, and consist of reflexes like sucking and grasping.
    • Piaget referred to these structures as schemes.
  • 8. How do cognitive structures develop?
    • Through assimilation and accomodation.
    • Assimilation: The incorporation of new experiences into existing structures.
    • Accommodation: The changing of an old structures so that new experiences can be processed.
    • Assimilation is conservative, while accommodation is progressive.
  • 9. Why accommodate?
    • Normally, the mind is in a state of equilibrium: existing structures are stable, and assimilation is mostly occurring.
    • However, a discrepant experience can lead to disequilibrium or cognitive “instability”
    • Child forced to accommodate existing structures.
  • 10. Active view of development
    • Child as scientist
    • Mental structures intrinsically active  constantly being applied to experience
    • Leads to curiosity and the desire to know
    • Development proceeds as the child actively refines his/her knowledge of the world through many “small experiments”
  • 11. Instructional learning viewed as relatively unimportant
    • Teachers should not try to transmit knowledge, but should provide opportunities for discovery
    • Child needs to construct or reinvent knowledge  adult knowledge cannot be formally communicated to the child
    • Limited importance of socio-cultural context; importance of peer interaction.
  • 12. II: The Sensorimotor Period (0-2 years)
    • Only some basic motor reflexes  grasping, sucking, eye movements, orientation to sound, etc
    • By exercising and coordinating these basic reflexes, infant develops intentionality and an understanding of object permanence .
  • 13. II: The Sensorimotor Period (0-2 years)
    • Intentionality refers to the ability to act in a goal-directed manner  in other words, to do one thing in order that something else occurs.
    • Requires an understanding of cause and effect
  • 14. II: The Sensorimotor Period (0-2 years)
    • Object permanence refers to the understanding that objects continue to exist even when no longer in view.
    • Need to distinguish between an action and the thing acted on.
  • 15. Stage 1 (0-1 month)
    • Stage of reflex activity.
    • Many reflexes like reaching, grasping sucking all operating independently.
    • Objects like "sensory pictures".
    • Subjectivity and objectivity fused.
    • Schemes activated by chance: No intentionality.
  • 16. Stage 2 (1-4 months)
    • Stage of Primary Circular Reactions.
    • Infant’s behaviour, by chance, leads to an interesting result & is repeated.
    • Circular: repetition.
    • Primary: centre on infant's own body.
    • Example: thumb-sucking.
  • 17. Object concept at stage 2
    • Passive expectation: if object disappears, infant will continue looking to the location where it disappeared, but will not search.
    • In the infant mind, the existence of the object still very closely tied to schemes applied to experience
  • 18. Intentions at stage 2
    • Intentionality beginning to emerge: infant can now self-initiate certain schemes (e.g., thumb-sucking)
  • 19. Stage 3 (4-8 months)
    • Stage of Secondary Circular Reactions
    • Repetition of simple actions on external objects.
    • Example: bang a toy to make a noise.
  • 20. Intentionality at stage 3
    • Poor understanding of the connection between causes and effect limits their ability to act intentionality.
    • “ Magical causality”  accidentally banging toy makes many interesting things happen
  • 21. Object concept at stage 3
    • Visual anticipation.
    • If infant drops an object, and it disappears, the infant will visually search for it.
    • Will also search for partially hidden objects
    • But will not search for completely hidden objects.
  • 22. Stage 4 (8-12 months)
    • Co-ordination of secondary circular reactions.
    • Secondary schemes combined to create new action sequences.
  • 23. Intentionality at Stage 4
    • First appearance of intentional or in Piaget’s terms, means-end behavior.
    • Infant learns to use one secondary scheme (e.g., pulling a towel) in order that another secondary scheme can be activated (e.g., reaching and grasping a toy)
  • 24. Object concept at stage 4
    • Infant will search for hidden objects.
    • Does infant understand the object as something that exists separate from the scheme applied to find the object?
    • No. Evidence?
    • A not B error.
  • 25. A trials The A not B task 1 The A not B task
  • 26. A trials The A not B task 1 The A not B task
  • 27. A trials The A not B task 1 The A not B task
  • 28. A trials The A not B task 2 The A not B task
  • 29. A trials The A not B task 2 The A not B task
  • 30. A trials The A not B task 2 The A not B task
  • 31. B trials The A not B task The A not B task
  • 32. B trials The A not B task The A not B task
  • 33. B trials The A not B task ??
  • 34. A not B error
    • Infant continues to search at the first hiding location after object is hidden in the new location.
    • Object still subjectively understood.
    • Object remains associated with a previously successful scheme.
  • 35. Stage 5 (12-18 months)
    • Stage of Tertiary Circular Reactions.
    • Actions varied in an experimental fashion.
    • Pursuit of novelty
    • New means are discovered.
    • Limited to physical actions taken on objects
  • 36. Object concept at stage 5.
    • Can solve A not B.
    • Cannot solve A not B with invisible displacement (Example from Piaget).
  • 37. Stage 5 and invisible displacement
    • Can only imagine the object as existing where it was last hidden.
    • Invisible displacement requires the infant to mentally calculate the new location of the object.
  • 38. Stage 6 (18-24 months)
    • Can solve object search with invisible displacement.
    • Infants now mentally represent physically absent objects.
    • Understands object as something that exists independently of sensory-motor action.
  • 39. Stage 6 (18-24 months)
    • Sensori-motor period culminates with the emergence of the Symbolic function
    • An idea or mental image is used to stand-in for a perceptually absent object
    • Trial-and-error problem solving does not need to enacted but can undertaken through mental combination.
  • 40. Summary
    • Sensori-motor period culminates in the emergence of symbolic representation.
    • Object permanence understood.
    • Basic means-ends skills have emerged.
  • 41. Piaget – Part 2 Beyond the sensorimotor period
  • 42. III: The pre-operational period
    • Symbolic thought without operations.
    • Operations: logical principles that are applied to symbols rather than objects.
    • 3 examples: reversibility, compensation, and identity
    • In the absence of operations, thinking is governed more by appearance than logical necessity.
  • 43. Pre-operational thinking and problems of conservation
  • 44. Pre-operational thinking and problems of conservation Conservation of liquid
  • 45. Pre-operational thinking and problems of conservation
  • 46. Pre-operational thinking and problems of conservation
  • 47. Pre-operational thinking and problems of conservation
  • 48. Pre-operational thinking and problems of conservation
  • 49. Pre-operational thinking and problems of conservation
  • 50. Pre-operational thinking and problems of conservation
  • 51.
    • Why do pre-operational children fail problems of conservation?
    • Because their thinking is not governed by principles of reversibility, compensation and identity
    Pre-operational thinking and problems of conservation
  • 52. Pre-operational thinking and problems of conservation Reversibility: The pouring of water into the small container can be reversed.
  • 53. Pre-operational thinking and problems of conservation Compensation: A decrease in the height of the new container is compensated by an increase in its width
  • 54. Pre-operational thinking and problems of conservation Identity: No amount of liquid has been added or taken away.
  • 55.
    • Why do pre-operational children fail problems of conservation?
    • Because their thinking is not governed by principles of reversibility, compensation and identity
    • If children applied these principles, they would conclude liquid is conserved
    Pre-operational thinking and problems of conservation
  • 56. Characteristics of Pre-Operational Thinking
    • Not governed by logical operations
    • Consequently, it appears egocentric (e.g., 3 mountains task) and intuitive (e.g., conservation tasks)
  • 57. Doll 1 Doll 2 Child 3 Mountains Task
  • 58. Doll 1 Doll 2 Child 3 Mountains Task
  • 59. Characteristics of Pre-Operational Thinking
    • (1) Egocentric
    • (2) Intuitive  problem solving is not reasoned or logical
  • 60. Nature of intuitive reasoning
    • No reversibility  Cannot mentally undo a given action.
    • Perceptual centration  Focus on only one dimension of a problem.
    • States versus transformations  Transformations relating different states ignored.
  • 61. What makes Pre-operational thinking stage-like?
    • Because it appears to be a general characteristic of children’s thinking at this age.
  • 62. What makes Pre-operational thinking stage-like?
    • Because it appears to be a general characteristic of children’s thinking at this age.
    • Examples:
    • Other conservation problems.
  • 63. Conservation of mass
  • 64. Conservation of mass
  • 65. Conservation of mass
  • 66. What makes Pre-operational thinking stage-like?
    • Because it appears to be a general characteristic of children’s thinking at this age.
    • Examples:
    • Other conservation problems.
  • 67. What makes Pre-operational thinking stage-like?
    • Because it appears to be a general characteristic of children’s thinking at this age.
    • Examples:
    • Other conservation problems.
    • Emotion reasoning.
  • 68. Emotion reasoning
  • 69. What makes Pre-operational thinking stage-like?
    • Because it appears to be a general characteristic of children’s thinking at this age.
    • Examples:
    • Other conservation problems.
    • Emotion reasoning.
    • Moral reasoning.
  • 70. What makes Pre-operational thinking stage-like?
    • Because it appears to be a general characteristic of children’s thinking at this age.
    • Examples:
    • Other conservation problems.
    • Emotion reasoning.
    • Moral reasoning.  focus on consequences
  • 71. IV: Concrete operational thinking (7-12 years)
    • Qualitatively different reasoning in conservation problems.
    • Flexible and decentered.
    • Co-ordination of multiple dimensions.
    • Logical vs. empirical problem solving.
    • Reversibility.
    • Awareness of transformations.
  • 72. IV: Concrete operational thinking (7-12 years)
    • Physical operations now internalized and have become cognitive
    • Still, logic directed at physical or concrete problems
  • 73. Horizontal decalage
    • Different conservation problems solved at different ages.
    • Some claim it is a threat to Piaget’s domain general view of cognitive development
    • Example: volume vs mass
    • But, invariant sequence observed.
  • 74. V: Formal operations
    • Thought no longer applied strictly to concrete problems.
    • Directed inward: thought becomes the object of thought.
    • Advances in use of deductive and inductive logic
  • 75. V: Formal operations
    • Deductive thought in period of concrete operations confined to familiar everyday experience: “If Sam steals Tim’s toy, then how will Tim feel?”
    • Formal operations: “If we could eliminate injustice, would the world live in peace?”
    • Thinking goes beyond experience, more abstract
  • 76. Inductive reasoning
    • Example: Pendulum problem
    • Scientific thinking: from specific observations to general conclusions through hypothesis-testing
  • 77. Inductive reasoning
    • Example: Pendulum problem
    How fast?
  • 78. Inductive reasoning
    • Formal operational children will systematically test all possibilities before arriving at a conclusion
  • 79. VI: Evaluating Piaget
    • Difficult.
    • An enormous theory.
    • Covers many ages and issues in development.
  • 80. Strengths
    • Active rather than passive view of the child.
    • Revealed important invariants in cognitive development.
    • Errors informative.
    • Perceptual-motor learning rather than language important for development.
    • Tasks.
  • 81. Weaknesses
    • The competence-performance distinction
  • 82. Competence
    • Knowledge, rules, and concepts that form the basis of cognition.
    • Inferred from behaviour.
  • 83. Performance
    • Energy level, interest, attention, language skills, motivation etc.
    • Factors that effect the expression of a competence.
  • 84. Competence-performance distinction.
    • Piaget attributed infants success (or lack of success) to competence.
    • However, he gave no consideration to performance factors that may have constrained the expression of knowledge.
    • Example: A not B
  • 85. Performance-competence distinction and A not B
    • A not B errors thought to indicate poor understanding of objects.
    • However, motor components of the task may constrain the expression of infants knowledge.
    • Example: Baillergeon.
    • Object permanence observed in 5 month-olds using a looking time task.
  • 86. Other examples
    • Borke (1975) & the 3 mountains task.
    • Bruner (1966) & the liquid conservation task.
    • More detailed task analysis required.
  • 87. Stages?
    • Stage like progression only observed if one assumes a bird-eye view.
    • Closer inspection reveals more continuous changes (Siegler, 1988).
  • 88. Summary
    • Piaget’s theory is wide-ranging and influential.
    • Source of continued controversy.
    • People continue to address many of the questions he raised, but using different methods and concepts.