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Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

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Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development
Jean Piaget
Swiss Biologist turnedPsychologistStudied child brain developmentHis participants were primarily his childrenResponsible for theories on cognitive developmentDeveloped the idea that children develop in specific stages based on their age
Basis of Findings
As children age the way they think changesPhysical maturationis just as important as the social environment when it comes to psychological developmentInteraction with the environment changes people, and cognitive development is dependent on how the individual child interacts withthe social and physical world–constructionist approach
Piaget’s study
Began by observing his 4 children and making baby diaries based on observations and discussions with the childrenHis goal was to determine the motivation behind his children’s behaviorsUsed open-ended conversations to gain insight into children’s judgments and explanations of what they were doing
Piaget’s theory on knowledge
Knowledge consists of cognitive schemasThese schemas develop or change naturally as children growChildren’s first responses are based off of limited schemas – sucking, reaching, graspingThey are modified as a result of experience: “adaptation”Children actively construct knowledge themselves when they interact and interpret objects
Two forms:Assimilation:happens when new information can be integrated into existing cognitive schemasAccommodation:occurs when existing cognitive schemas have to be altered because they no longer match new experiences
Piaget’s Stages of Development
SensorimotorPreoperationalConcrete OperationalFormal Operational
The Sensorimotor Stage (0-2 years)
Newborns rely on innate reflects and have limited knowledgeIn this state children learn through movements and sensationsKnowledge arises from looking, touching, hearing, sucking, grasping, and putting things in their mouthThe child will come to have an idea of what different objects are likeChild will develop control over their body, and learn movements have consequences – like bashing a toyAt this stage, Piaget argues that children developobject permanence
Object permanence
8 moths old:Children will develop the idea thatobjects continue to exist even when they are no longer seenPiaget found that at 4 months old, a child will not look for an object that is hidden “out of sight out of mind”An 8 month old will look for a hidden objectBetween 8 and 12 months, the child will keep looking in the place he or she found it last, even if the child watched someone hide it in a new place18-24 months they will develop full object permanence
Blanket and ball study
Aim: Piaget (1963) wanted to investigate at what age children acquire object permanence.Method: Piaget hid a toy under a blanket, while the child was watching, and observed whether or not the child searched for the hidden toy. Searching for the hidden toy was evidence of object permanence. Piaget assumed that the child could only search for a hidden toy if s/he had a mental representation of it.Results: Piaget found that infants searched for the hidden toy when they were around 8-months-old.Conclusion: Children around 8 months have abject permanence because they are able to form a mental representation of the object in their minds.
Pre-Operational Stage (2-7 years old)
The child will learn how to speakChildren will become capable of thinking in symbolic thinkingThey can form ideas but can only focus on one aspect of an object or situation at a time, and cannot transfer knowledge from one situation to anotherUnderstanding of the world isegocentric– the child can only see the world from his or her point of viewThe child does not understand that others see the world differentlyCognitive limitation:the children cannot understand that someone might think differently
Limitation: thinking is dominated by appearance of things
Pre-operational children cannot understand the concept ofconservation.That physical properties remain the same even if the object appearance is changedChildren at this stage focus on the most visible change, and do not understand mentally that the amount of liquid is the same even if the glass is different
3 mountain task
Aim: Piaget andInhelder(1956) wanted to find out at what age children decenter - i.e. become no longeregocentric.Method: The child sits at a table, presented in front are three mountains. The mountains were different, with snow on top of one, a hut on another and a red cross on top of the other. The child was allowed to walk round the model, to look at it, then sit down at one side. A doll is then placed at various positions of the table.The child is then shown 10 photographs of the mountains taken from different positions, and asked to indicate which showed the dolls view. Piaget assumed that if the child correctly picked out the card showing the doll's view, s/he was not egocentric. Egocentrism would be shown by the child who picked out the card showing the view s/he saw.Findings - Four-year-olds always chose a picture which matched their own view, while six-year-olds showed some awareness of alternative perspectives. Only seven- and eight-year-olds consistently chose the correct picture.Conclusion - At age 7, thinking is no longer egocentric as the child can see more than their own point of view.
The Concrete Operational stage (7-12 years)
Children begin formal schoolingAt this stage they will develop full understanding of the conservationThey start to use rules of logic in problem solving but only when dealing with concrete tasksChildren need images for support when problem solving
Conservation of numbers
Aim: To test when children develop the ability to understand the conservation of numbersPiaget placed a set of counters in front of children.He then placed the same amount of counters in front of himself, however spread the counters apart.He asked the children who had more countersBy age 7, children were able to determine that they both had the same amount of counters.
Conservation of liquids task
Aim: Piaget wanted to test when children would develop an ability to understand the conservation of liquidsMethod: Children were shown two containers of water. The child was able to determine that they held the same amount of waterThe researcher then poured one of the containers into a larger containerThe child between the ages of 4-7 argued that the larger container held more waterAt age 7, children being to develop the ability to understand that the water is the same in both containers
Formal Operational Stage (12 and up)
By the end of this stage adolescents and adults can use formal abstract logicThey can mentally manipulate ideas, concepts, or numbers, and can think hypotheticallyThey can think about what could happen or would never happenThey will problem solve in a systematic wayReach the end by age 20
The Pendulum Task
Piaget gave children material to make a pendulum: string and weightsChildren had to use them to create the fastest pendulum they could9 year olds use trial and error, with no logical thought put into the task11 and 12 year olds logically thought through the tasks, using the scientific method to change one variable at a time
The Third eye test
Piaget asked children where they would put a third eye if given a chance9 years old repeatedly said they would place it in the middle of the forehead11 and 12 years olds put more thought into their answers. Many of them stated they put it on the hands, that way they could look around corners without anyone seeing themThis showed that they logically thought about their answers before deciding.
Postformalstage (adulthood)
More recent psychologists challenge Piaget. They believe cognitive development does not end with the formal operational stage of developmentPostformalthought is more flexible, logical, and dialectical (reasoned) than formal operational thoughtIn this stage, a person is able to make decisions based on individual circumstances and situations they are inThey use logic as well as emotions to make decisions. People are better able to conceive of multiple logics, choices, or perceptions to understand complexities and inherent biases in truth (Griffin et al, 2009)People tend to be able to logically think about relationships, work, politics,etcPeople are able to use past experiences to make decisions





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Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development