Theories of Cognitive Development for AP Psychology
Review questions for this study guide can be found at:
Theories of cognitive development look at how our patterns of thinking, reasoning, remembering, and problem solving change as we grow. Most developmental theories focus on infancy, childhood, and adolescence.
Jean Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development
Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget developed a stage theory of cognitive development based on decades of careful observation and testing of children. His theory has been very influential because Piaget recognized that children think differently from adults. He thought that certain cognitive structures were innate, but only through a child's interaction with the environment could they grow and develop over time.
Piaget believed that all knowledge begins with building blocks called schemas, mental representations that organize and categorize information processed by our brain. Through the process of assimilation, we fit new information into our existing schemas. Through the process of accommodation we modify our schemas to fit new information. As babies, we learn through accommodation that not all people fit our schema of mommy.
Sensorimotor (First) Stage
Piaget called the first stage of cognitive development, from birth to approximately 2 years, the sensorimotor stage, during which the baby explores the world using his/her senses and motor interactions with objects in the environment. The concept of object permanence—that objects continue to exist even when out of sight—to Piaget seemed to develop suddenly between 8 and 10 months. Piaget said that the 5-month-old who sees a toy does not search for it if it disappears, but a 9-month-old does. Recently, psychologists have found that object permanence seems to develop gradually; young infants gaze where they saw a toy that disappeared. According to Piaget, infants at about 8 months of age also seem to develop stranger anxiety, fear of unfamiliar people, indicating that they can differentiate among people they know and people they don't know.
Preoperational (Second) Stage
To Piaget, attainment of object permanence and stranger anxiety indicated that cognitive structures had matured sufficiently for the typical 2-year-old to represent and manipulate objects with symbols such as words, whether or not the objects were present, which characterizes Piaget's second stage, the preoperational stage. From approximately 2 to 7 years, language develops with the ability to think. The child is mainly egocentric, seeing the world from his/her own point of view. Egocentrism is consistent with a belief called animism, that all things are living just like him/her; and the belief, called artificialism, that all objects are made by people. While preoperational, a child uses trial and error to figure out how things work and answers questions intuitively rather than logically. He/she sometimes demonstrates magical thinking, reasoning that something happens because he/she wishes it to happen.
Add your own comment
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- The Five Warning Signs of Asperger's Syndrome
- What Makes a School Effective?
- Child Development Theories
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- Should Your Child Be Held Back a Grade? Know Your Rights
- Bullying in Schools
- First Grade Sight Words List
- Test Problems: Seven Reasons Why Standardized Tests Are Not Working