Discuss Piaget’s theory of cognitive development

Published: 2021-06-18 04:55:06
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Cognitive Development can be defined as the development of thought processes. This includes thinking, concept understanding, problem solving, and decision making and remembering from childhood on to adulthood. There are two theories of Cognitive development that offer us two different ways of understanding it. The first is called Domain general. This theory states that one line of development determines all of the changes in a child’s intellectual system (van Geert, 1998). This means that if one thing goes wrong then it will impact on all other areas of a child’s cognitive system, resulting in a high scale problem.
The second is the Domain specific theory. This theory varies from the domain general theory as it states, different lines of cognitive development operate independently. It sees cognition as a heterogeneous system. Jean Piaget (1896-1980) is the most well-known psychologist in the field of cognitive development. He was a French man that originally trained in biology and philosophy sectors. Piaget was the first person to suggest that children see the world differently to adults; he then developed methods to investigate this before any other psychologist had studied this area.
Piaget set the basis for his research methods primarily on case studies because they were descriptive and for Piaget, the domain general theory of cognitive development was the correct one. The problem with this is that it is impossible to use case studies in order to draw conclusions about cognitive development to the entire population, therefore lacking population validity. Piaget used the direct method of question and answer to find out how a child’s reasoning differs from an adult (D. M. G. Hyde, 1970).
He believed that the differences in intellectual development are always a result of either direct or indirect changes that occur in a person’s logical ability. 120281576 Piaget created a stage theory of cognitive development in children. This stage theory centres on the thought that children develop cognitive skills by interacting with objects in their environment. Children gain mental representations by this interaction which causes them to base the world on their experiences with the objects (Piaget, 1972).
Piaget’s stage theory consisted of four stages that he said all children went through when developing cognitive skills. It was a stage theory which means that a child cannot develop to a late stage without first developing through all of the preceding stages; it was a one way coherent process. Stage one was the Sensory Motor stage. This is the period where language has not been formed yet by the infant. This stage focuses on the child from birth to two years of age. The child interacts with its environment by manipulating objects as the child has not developed language skills yet (Piaget and Inhelder, 1969).
The child will use all of its other senses, such as taste and touch, to explore the world surrounding them. Initially the child will use sucking and grasping reflexes and then eventually move on to reaching for objects. Infants firstly believe that if they cannot see an object then it does not exist, the ‘Out of sight, out of existence’ principle applies here (Martin, Carlson and Buskist, 2010). When the child reaches about eight months of age, the child will begin to understand the concept that the object can still exist even when it is out of sight.
Stage two is the pre-operational stage. This occurs between the ages of two and seven. The key milestone in this stage is egocentrism and domain perception. Children in this stage believe that everything is about them; they have an egocentric view of the world. Piaget’s three mountains task was used in order to detect the ability to mentally rotate an image (Inagaki et al. , 2002). Children aged four or five were not able to say what another person would be able to see from their view; these skills are not gained until the age of around nine years old.
120281576 In stage three we have the concrete operations where children begin to gain some logical reasoning about the world. This stage occurs between seven and twelve years of age according to Piaget. They start to solve conservation problems but are very limited to concrete situations as they find systematic thinking difficult (Piaget, 1972). Stage four is the formal operational stage, ages twelve and above. Children learn to think about abstract ideas logically in this stage.
They learn to understand that their behaviour can have different consequences under different condition (Piaget, 2008). There are many critics of Piaget’s stage theory, Margaret Donaldson and Hughes to name a few. A problem with his theory is that it proposes a single linear sequence that holds four very broad stages where each person must pass in order to fully develop their cognitive skills (Feldman, 2004). It therefore is too general as it does not give us much detail about the different stages and does not take into account any individual differences at all.
On the other hand, Piaget used good methodology throughout his studies, constantly being careful in picking out his sample so that the sample would have population validity (Shayer, 2003). Another problem with Piaget’s stage theory is that his results and methodology do not necessarily test the theoretical claims of it. The negative observations, such as a child’s failure to be able to see from another person’s perspective, do not automatically mean a positive thesis, e. g. the child has a special mode of thought that prevents this (Feldman, 2004).
Piaget’s stage theory still remains the standard theory against which all new theories of cognitive development are judged. However, it is a mutual agreement that Piaget may of under-estimated the cognitive abilities of children between two and eight years of age. He has also failed in observing that schooling and literacy affect the rates of development in children (Anders et al. , 2012). Piaget’s studies had good population validity due to him using a large 120281576 sample and large range of participants in his studies. His approach seems logical and has high value in this area.

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