Theories of Cognitive Development: an Insight to the Theories of Piaget, Information-Processing and Vygotsky

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Theories of Cognitive Development: An insight to the theories of Piaget, Information-processing and Vygotsky How do we learn? How do we grow? Over the years, psychologists have studied to great lengths the processes that humans go through as they progress from infancy to adulthood. Several theories have emerged over time with three prominent ones. Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky produced two important and distinct theories.

Another important theory, the information-processing theory, presents a completely different point of view.Each theory has is differences from the other and gives insight into the developing human mind. Jean Piaget believed that all children are curious and act as scientists in their never-ending quest to build understanding about the world around them. He theorized that children use schemes, which are constructs that children categorize events with. Examples of schemes would be “play things”, “things I eat” and “things I don’t like”. Piaget’s next term was assimilation, which is when children add things to one scheme or another, example, a child having peanut butter for the first time and placing it in “things I eat”.Accomodation is when a child modifies a scheme because they have assimilated something that requires the entire scheme to be slightly redefined i. e.

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when a child learns that certain objects needs to be grasped with two hands instead of only one. (Kail/Cavanaugh, 133) The focus of Piaget’s study was on the four main stages of development. He believed that an individual goes through four main changes/stages in their life at birth and ages two, seven, and eleven. The first stage is the Sensorimotor stage.From birth to approximately age two, children are highly aware of stimuli and begin to figure out how to recreate them and what each one means. Senses and motor reflexes begin development. Also, object permanence, the understanding that objects exist when they are not in sight, begins to develop in this stage.

Until approximately month 8 children will see an object and react to it, but if it is covered, the child will think it has ceased to exist and find interest in something else.This is a prime example of the adage “Out of sight, out of mind. ” From 8 months to about 12 months, if there object were to be covered, the child would then search for it, not understanding that it is simply under a cloth, thus making the game “Peek-a-boo” enjoyable for the child.

Piaget states that it takes until about 18 months for object permanence to be established. Preoperational Thinking is the second of Piaget’s stages. This stage focuses mostly on egocentrism, which is a child difficulty to see situations for another point of view. Preoperational children simply do not comprehend that other people differ in their ideas, convictions, and emotions” (Kail/Cavanaugh, 135) During the Preoperational Stage, children may begin to project their feelings onto inanimate objects, which is referred to as animism. At approximately age 7, a child enters the Concrete Operational Stage. This stage marks the beginning of the recognition that people experience things in different ways, thus beginning to give the child a sense of individuality. Here, the child begins to use abstract thinking and making decisions rationally based on observed phenomena.

The child is now able to understand 4 + 2 = 6 and 6 – 4 = 2, as they have the ability to reverse operational thought. “The limitation of the third stage of cognitive development is that operations are only carried out on concrete objects, and limited to two characteristics at the same time. ” (Lin, 2002) The fourth and final stage of Piaget’s theory is the Formal Operational Period. This period lasts from around age eleven to the end of life.

No longer a child, the adolescent is capable of complex abstract thought and logic. Concrete evidence is no longer necessary to base judgments and decisions.Complex algebraic manipulation is possible now, meaning the individual would understand a + b = c then a = c – b and a/b = c then ac = b. (Child Development Center 2008) The Information-processing Theory is based on the construct that the human mind contains Mental Hardware and Software. This mental hardware is the “wiring” of the brain. It is the structure and pathways built in that allow the brain to function.

The software is in reference to “programs” that allow people to perform specific tasks. Supporters of this theory believe that children’s mental software continues to grow and develop thorough life, becoming more complex.Part of the Information Processing Theory is attention, which is a process that determines what sensory information receives extra cognitive processing. Over time, children learn to focus attention between orienting responses, which grab the attention, and tasks at hand. As development continues, attention span is developed and children become able to focus their attention on things for longer periods of time. Learning is another important part of the Information-processing. Learning occurs through the process classical conditioning, among others.In classical conditioning, one response is elicited be providing a stimulus that is produced by another stimulus.

The ever-popular example would be Pavlov’s dog. In this experiment, dogs were trained to recognize that food, which caused salivation, would be given to them after a bell was rung. Eventually the dogs learned that the bell meant food was coming and began to salivate upon hearing the bell. “Young babies remember events for days or even weeks at a time. ” (Kali/Cavanaugh, 149) Experiments by Rovee-Collier prove three things: 1. Babies remember past events, 2.These events are eventually forgotten, 3. Cues can remind the baby of the events.

As the memory develops over the first two years, the memory center so the brain, hippocampus and amygdala, show growth and development. Autobiographical memory is also important. With parental encouragement and discussion of past events, children’s memory has shown to be richer and more vivid. Number skills are the last component to the information-processing theory. Infants are aware of ordinality, which is the fact that numbers differ in magnitude. By age three, children have mastered three principles.

The first principle is the one-to-one principle. This principle refers to the idea that each number has an exact and unchanging quantity. The Stable-order principle is that numbers will always occur in the same order. The Cardinality Principle refers to the fact that when counting a quantity, the last number is the most important as it is the amount of whatever is being counted.

Lev Vygotsky presented a fairly different approach to development. His theory, while not fully developed due to an early death, focuses on three main points of zone of proximal development, scaffolding, and private speech.Zone of proximal development is defined as the area between the level of performance a child can achieve when working independently and a higher level of performance that is possible when working under the guidance or direction of more skilled adults or peers. (Kali/Cavanaugh, 155) This is exemplified by the text’s example of children doing story problems. The children find themselves unable to complete the problem until directed by an adult who lays out the problem in steps for the child.

Scaffolding is where teachers (of any manner) gauge how much assistance to offer based on how much help the student needs.Vygotsky states that only offering the correct amount of assistance and not “over-helping” promotes learning. Private speech, the final component of Vygotsky’s theory is speech by the child that is not intended for others. It is an undeveloped inner-monologue.

Vygotsky called private speech a for of self-regulation. Inner Speech eventually develops and the child is able to self-regulate without verbal reminders from themselves. Each of these theories presents different yet valid points of view. Piaget presents a more “stepping-stone” point of view.Information-processing is more of an experiential learning track, whereas Vygotsky sees development as “as collaboration between expert and novice. ” (Kali/Cavanaugh, 156) While none of these provide an exact and definitive answer into how he learn and grow, they give us an insight as to what is happening inside the human mind. Works Cited Kail, Robert V.

, and John C. Cavanaugh. Human Development A Life-Span View. 4th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth, 2006.

Huitt, W. (2003). The information processing approach to cognition.Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved 15 May 2009 from http://chiron. valdosta. edu/whuitt/col/cogsys/infoproc.

html Lin, S. (2002). Piaget’s developmental stages. In B. Hoffman (Ed. ), Encyclopedia of Educational Technology.

Retrieved May 15, 2009, from http://coe. sdsu. edu/eet/Articles/piaget/start.

htm Myers, Robert. Stages of Intellectual Development In Children and Teenagers, Child Development Institute. 15 May 2009. http://www. childdevelopmentinfo.

com/development/piaget. shtml


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