Lecture: Cognitive Development
Reading Assignment 25:
Cognitive Development (pp. 477-490)
Click for Reading Assignment 25

The twenty-fifth reading assignment introduces students to two theories that explain cognitive development: Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory and the Information Processing Approach. The Cognitive Development Theory will be discussed first, followed by a discussion of how it differs from the latter, and then the Information Processing Approach.

Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory
Gone are the days that psychologist are likely to make significant contributions from observations of their own children. Jean Piaget, however, studied each of his three children from birth and later proposed a theory that addressed how individuals acquire new knowledge. It was through these extensive observations that the Cognitive Development Theory was established. There are four stages included in the Cognitive Development Theory: Sensorimotor Stage, Preoperational Stage, Concrete Operational Stage, and Formal Operational Stage. His theory holds that cognitive development comes from encounters with the unknown. In the face of the unknown, the individual is faced with the challenge to understand it, learn about it, or to know more about it – hence, cognitive development or cognitive change. Individuals will use one or more Schemas, a set of related principles and concepts, to aid in this process. The first Schema is the sucking reflex, which develops into more complex principles as one grows older. When new information is encountered, one of two processes will occur: Assimilation or Accommodation. Piaget believed the driving force behind cognitive development to be the desire to reach equilibrium between when to use Accommodation or Assimilation to make sense of new knowledge.

The first stage, Sensorimotor Stage, is when an infant’s thoughts are influenced by Egocentric Thought, and life is all about them unless they are asleep. A milestone during the Sensorimotor Stage is the establishment of Object Permanence. The second stage, Preoperational Stage, is between 2 and 5-7 years of age where children learn to use their brain to interact and think about the world instead of relying solely on sensory input. A popular phrase that is used in elementary education is “Put on your thinking caps children” in which they are encouraged to think and use their words and symbols to deal with information and express their selves. The third stage, Concrete Operational Stage, is between 7 and 12 years of age where adolescents learn how to better utilize mental representations, more times than not with the aid of real world objects. The milestone for the Concrete Operational Stage is referred to as Conservation. The fourth and final stage, Formal Operational Stage, is between 12 and 15 years of age where budding teenagers learn to think more “outside the box.” During this stage, children learn to manipulate abstract ideas or proposals as well as concrete objects and ideas. This stage is unique insofar as it lasts throughout one’s lifetime whereas all the other operations have a relative end to them.

The Stages Versus Processing Approach
This aforementioned understanding of cognitive development has been the standard for many years. However, it became apparent that the ages that define and distinguish the stages of the Cognitive Development Theory were not as fixed as once thought. In addition, certain milestones had been observed in stages inconsistent with that described above. However, many of the processes dispersed throughout the stages (i.e., Conservation and Egocentric Thought) cannot be disputed. Hence the establishment of the Information Processing Approach, which completely stripped the notion of stages away from a theory of cognitive development and focused solely on the cognitive processes that distinguishes cognitive ability. Evidence of such cognitive processes have been demonstrated soon after birth. Using techniques to observe behavior, such as an orienting reflex and fixation, allowed scientists to make inferences about Intermodal Processing. Since infants cannot speak, deciphering how a child perceives something had to be deduced from actions rather than words.

Information Processing Approach
Consistent with that stated above, psychologists have researched and studied cognitive processes that impact development and, ultimately, how it changes throughout life. Processing Speed is a perfect example of a process that decreases, as one ages. Psychomotor Slowing is actually a term that refers to the decrease that occurs due to age. Processing Speed is a very important process that distinguishes individual’s cognitive ability. It also has significant ramifications, in the real-world, on an individual’s perceived intelligence. Other processes investigated by the Information Processing Approach include Automatic Processing, Cognitive Strategies, Knowledge Base, and Metacognition.

Draft of Summary
Stewart, Basil. (2012, Fall). Assignment 2.3. Draft of summary submitted in partial fulfillment of Introduction to Experimental (RPS 410).

Burton, Stephanie. (2012, Fall). Assignment 2.3. Draft of summary submitted in partial fulfillment of Introduction to Experimental (RPS 410).

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