Chapter 6 OutlinePlease note that much of this information is quoted from the text.I. PIAGET’S THEORY OF COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT A. Processes of Development •Schemes (or schemas) are cognitive structures that help individuals organize and understand their experiences; change with age. •Children use and adapt their schemas through two processes: 1. Assimilation occurs when children incorporate new information into their existing knowledge schemas. 2. Accommodation occurs when children adjust their schemas to fit new information and experiences. •Piaget believed that assimilation and accommodation operate even in very young infants. Example: Newborns reflexively suck everything that touches their lips, and the characteristics of each new item are learned (i.e., taste, texture, etc,.) through assimilation; however, if the infant sucks on something unpleasant (i.e., tastes bad, is sharp, etc.,) he or she quickly learns a new schema—that certain things should not be sucked—through accommodation. 3. Organization •In Piaget’s concept of organization, items are mentally grouped into categories for a more smoothly functioning system. 4. Equilibration and Stages of Development •Equilibration is a mechanism that helps children understand the world by resolving cognitive conflict or disequilibrium. •Piaget believed that children pass through four stages of thought from infancy to adolescence. Passage through the stages results from biological pressures to adapt to the environment (assimilation and accommodation) and organize structures of thinking. •The stages of thought are qualitatively different from one another. The way individuals think at one stage is different from thinking at other stages. B. Sensorimotor Stage •The first stage of thought for Piaget is the sensorimotor stage which lasts from birth to about 2 years of age. Mental development is characterized by progression in the infant’s ability to organize and coordinate sensations with physical movements and actions. •The sensorimotor stage is divided into six substages in which schemes change in organization. 1. Substages •The simple reflexes substage (0 to 1 month) involves coordinating sensation and action through reflexive behaviors (rooting and sucking). Babies develop the ability to produce behaviors that resemble reflexes in the absence of obvious reflexive stimuli which is evidence that the infant is initiating action and is actively structuring experiences in the first month. •The first habits and primary circular reactions substage (1 to 4 months) involves infants’ reflexes evolving into adaptive schemes that are more refined and coordinated. A habit is a scheme based on a simple reflex that is separate from its eliciting stimuli. A primary circular reaction is a scheme based on the infant’s attempt to reproduce an interesting or pleasurable event that initially occurred by chance. •The secondary circular reactions substage (4 to 8 months) involves the infant
becoming more object-oriented or focused on the world, moving beyond preoccupation with the self in sensorimotor interactions. •The coordination of secondary circular reactions substage (8 to 12 months) includes several significant changes that involve the coordination of schemes and intentionality. •In the tertiary circular reactions, novelty, and curiosity substage (12 to 18 months), the infant becomes intrigued by the variety of properties that objects possess and by the many things they can make happen to objects. •In the internalization of schemes substage (18 to 24 months), the infant’s mental functioning shifts from a purely sensorimotor plane to a symbolic plane, and the infant develops the ability to use primitive symbols. 2. Object Permanence •Object permanence involves understanding that objects and events continue to exist, even when they cannot directly be seen, heard, or touched. •The principle way that object permanence is studied is by watching an infant’s reaction when an interesting object or event disappears. If no reaction is displayed, it is assumed the child believes that the object no longer exists. If infants are surprised by the disappearance and begin a search for it, it is assumed they believe it continues to exist. •Research in life-span development: Object permanence and causality – this section discusses how scientists can use the violation of expectations method to student object permanence in infants. 3. Evaluating Piaget’s Sensorimotor Stage •Infant development is viewed in terms of coordinating sensory input with motor actions. •In the last three decades, many research studies in the areas of perceptual development and conceptual development have suggested that Piaget’s theory needs to be revised. •Piaget’s claim that certain processes are crucial in transitions from one stage to the next is drawn into question by studies that find infants demonstrate inconsistency on the A-not-B test. •Gibson and Spelke are two scientists who have found that infants have intermodal perception (the ability to coordinate information from two or more sensory modalities). •Research suggests that infants develop the ability to understand how the world works at a very early age. •Baillargeon found that 3-month-olds demonstrate object permanence. •Meltzoff questions whether our method for testing object permanence is valid. •Many researchers conclude that Piaget wasn’t specific enough about how infants learn about their world and that infants are more competent than Piaget thought.C. Preoperational Stage •The preoperational stage encompasses the period from 2 to 7 years of age. Stable concepts are formed, mental reasoning emerges, egocentricism is present, and magical beliefs are formed. The term preoperational emphasizes that a child is not able to think in an operational way. •Operations are internalized sets of actions that allow the child to do mentally what before he or she did physically. •Preoperational thought can be divided into two substages, symbolic function and intuitive thought.
1. Symbolic Function Substage •Symbolic function substage is the first substage of preoperational thought, occurring roughly between the ages of 2 and 4. In this substage, the young child gains the ability to mentally represent an object that is not present. •Two limitations of children’s thinking during this substage include: —Egocentrism is the inability to distinguish between one’s own perspective and someone else’s perspective. —Piaget and Inhelder’s three mountain task demonstrated that children did not have the ability to take another’s perspective when viewing objects on the three mountains. —Animism is the belief that inanimate objects have “lifelike” qualities and are capable of action. 2. Intuitive Thought Substage •The intuitive thought substage occurs between approximately 4 and 7 years of age. Children begin to use primitive reasoning and want to know the answers to all sorts of questions. 3. Centration and the Limits of Preoperational Thought •Centration involves focusing or centering attention on one characteristic to the exclusion of all others. •Children in this substage demonstrate a lack of conservation, which is the awareness that altering an object’s or a substance’s appearance does not change its basic properties. •Centration and children’s inability to reverse actions contribute to the lack of conservation. •Gelman states that children are more likely to be able to conserve if they have been trained to pay attention to the relevant aspects of the task. She also states that children develop conservation earlier than Piaget thought and that attention is especially important in explaining conservation.D. Concrete Operational Stage •Concrete operational children are able to classify objects and consider relationships between them. •Contexts of life-span development: Conservation skills around the world – this section looks are cross-cultural differences in the development of conservation. Development of conservation skills is dependent upon how much practice is provided in the culture. However, these cultural differences tend to disappear when the studies are conducted by individuals who are competent in the native language or the participants receive training. •They are capable of seriation (understanding quantitative relationships between objects) and transitivity (understanding relations between classes of objects).E. Formal Operational Stage 1. Abstract, Idealistic, and Logical Thinking •Formal operational thought involves the ability to reason about what is possible and hypothetical, as opposed to what is real, and the ability to reflect on one’s own thoughts. •Hypothetical-deductive reasoning is the formal operational concept that adolescents have the cognitive ability to develop hypotheses, or best guesses, about
ways to solve problems, such as an algebraic equation. Then they systematically deduce, or conclude, which is the best path to follow in solving the equation. •Critics argue that there is more variation in individuals’ formal operational abilities than Piaget envisioned. •Only about one in three young adolescents is a formal operational thinking. •Many adults never become formal operational thinkers. 2. Adolescent Egocentrism •Adolescent egocentrism is the heightened self-consciousness of adolescents, which is reflected in their belief that others are as interested in them as they themselves are, and in their sense of personal uniqueness. •Adolescent egocentrism can be divided into two types of social thinking: —Imaginary audience refers to the heightened self-consciousness of adolescents that is reflected in their belief that others are as interested in them as they themselves are. The imaginary audience involves attention-getting behavior —the attempt to be noticed, visible, and “on stage.” —Personal fable is the part of adolescent egocentrism that involves an adolescent’s sense of uniqueness and invulnerability, and may be linked to the reckless behavior often seen in adolescence. •Adolescents also often show a sense of invincibility—feeling that although others might be vulnerable to tragedies; these things won’t happen to them.II. APPLYING AND EVALUATING PIAGET’S THEORY A. Piaget and Education 1.Take a constructivist approach. Students learn best by making active discoveries, reflecting on them, and discussing them rather than blindly imitating the teacher or doing things by rote. 2.Facilitate rather than direct learning. Observe and find out how students think and ask relevant questions to stimulate their thinking, and ask them to explain their answers. 3.Consider the child’s knowledge and level of thinking. Children’s thinking is not like that of adults, and teachers should try to consider children’s stage of cognitive development when evaluating how they interact with students, and help guide them to a higher level of understanding. 4.Use ongoing assessment. Student’s written and verbal explanations of their reasoning can be used to evaluate progress. 5.Promote the student’s intellectual health. Piaget believed that children should not be pushed and pressured into achieving too much before they are mature enough to think at a higher level. Faster is not necessarily better when it comes to intellectual development. 6.Turn the classroom into a setting of exploration and discovery. Classrooms should be less structured, and predetermined lesson plans and assignments should not be used. Observed interests and natural participation in activities (which may be predetermined) set the course of learning. B. Evaluating Piaget’s Theory 1. Contributions •It is the foundation of the present field of children’s cognitive development. •He used careful observations and showed how children need to make their experiences fit their schemas yet simultaneously adapt their schemas to experience. •He revealed how cognitive change is likely to occur if the context is structured to allow movement to the next higher level. This is gradual and not sudden.
2. Criticisms •Some cognitive abilities can emerge earlier than Piaget suggested. •Some cognitive abilities can emerge later than Piaget suggested. •Cognitive development is not as stagelike as his theory suggests. •Piaget argued that training to think at the next stage is useless because the child has not achieved the required maturation level, yet findings demonstrate that training can be effective. •Culture and education exert stronger influences on children’s development than Piaget suggested. •Neo-Piagetians give more emphasis to how children use attention, memory, and strategies to process information.III. VYGOTSKY’S THEORY OF COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT•Vygotsky, like Piaget, emphasized that children actively construct their knowledge andunderstanding.• In Vygotsky’s theory, children are more often described as social creatures than in Piaget’stheory.• Children’s thinking and understanding primarily develops through social interactions.•Children’s cognitive development depends on the tools provided by society, and their minds areshaped by the cultural context in which they live. A. Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is Vygotsky’s term for the range of tasks that are too difficult for the child to master alone but that can be learned with guidance and assistance of adults or more skilled children. • The lower limit of the ZPD is the level of skill reached by the child working independently. • The upper limit is the level of additional responsibility the child can accept with the assistance of an able instructor. B. Scaffolding is closely linked to the zone of proximal development; it refers to the changing level of support that is provided to a child over the course of a teaching session. • Dialogue is an important tool of scaffolding in the zone of proximal development. C. Language and Thought • Language is social and is used for self-regulation, which is called private speech (when children use language to guide their behavior) or inner speech (when private speech goes “underground,” or is internalized as silent speech). • Vygotsky believed that children who use private speech are more socially competent than those who don’t. • Research has found that children who use private speech are more attentive and improve their performance more than children who do not use private speech. D. Teaching Strategies 1. Assess the child’s ZPD. 2. Use the child’s ZPD in teaching. 3. Use more skilled peers as teachers. 4. Monitor and encourage children’s use of private speech. 5. Place instruction in a meaningful context. 6. Transform the classroom with Vygotskian ideas. • Applications in life-span development: Tools of the mind – Tools of the mind is an early education curriculum that emphasizes children’s development of self-regulation and the cognitive foundations of literacy. Research assessments of children’s writing using this curriculum have more
advanced writing skills than children in other early childhood programs. E. Evaluating Vygotsky’s Theory • Vygotsky’s theory surfaced later than Piaget’s and may not be fully evaluated. • Vygotsky’s theory is a social constructivist approach; it emphasizes the social contexts of learning and how social interaction influences the construction of knowledge. • The endpoint for Piaget is formal operations, whereas the endpoint for Vygotsky may differ depending on the culture. • Some critics point out that Vygotsky was not specific enough about age-related changes. • Some critics emphasize that Vygotsky did not adequately describe how changes in socioemotional capabilities contribute to cognitive development. • Some critics say Vygotsky overemphasized the role of language in thinking. • Vygotsky’s emphasis on collaboration and guidance is also criticized.IV. COGNITIVE CHANGES IN ADULTHOOD A. Piaget’s View •Young adults are more quantitatively advanced in their thinking in the sense that they have more knowledge, and in adulthood knowledge increases in specific areas depending on experience. However, adults and adolescents do not differ qualitatively; that is, they do not differ in the type of reasoning that they employ. •Many individuals do not reach the highest level of their formal operational thinking until adulthood. •Some adults never reach the formal operational thinking stage. B. Realistic and Pragmatic Thinking • Idealistic thinking decreases in early adulthood. •Young adults often switch from acquiring knowledge to applying knowledge as they pursue success in their work. C. Reflective and Relativistic Thinking •Perry views adult thinking as moving away from the absolute dualistic thinking of adolescence. •Labouvie-Vief proposes that the increasing complexity of cultures has generated a greater need for more reflective, complex thinking that takes into account the changing nature of knowledge and challenges. •Labouvie-Vief emphasizes that the key aspects of cognitive development in emerging adulthood include deciding on a particular world view, recognizing that the world view is subjective, and understanding that diverse world views should be acknowledged. • The highest levels of thinking are attained by only some and education is a key factor. D. Is There a Fifth, Postformal Stage? •Postformal thought is qualitatively different from Piaget’s formal operational thought. It is: 1. Reflective, relativistic, and contextual 2. Provisional 3 3. Realistic 4 4. Open to emotions and subjective Research suggests that adults engage in this type of thought more often than do adolescents; however, critics argue that “post formal thought” is not qualitatively more advanced than formal operational thought. Wisdom is a possible candidate for what cognitive stages may characterize middle