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Piaget's Theory Of Cognitive Development

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Cognitive development is the development of thought processes, including remembering, problem solving, and decision-making, from childhood through adolescence to adulthood. Historically, the cognitive development of children has been studied in a variety of ways. The oldest is through intelligence tests. An example of this is the Stanford Binet Intelligence Quotient test. IQ scoring is based on the concept of "mental age," according to which the scores of a child of average intelligence match his or her age. IQ tests are widely used in the United States, but they have been criticized for defining intelligence too narrowly. In contrast to the emphasis placed on a child's native abilities by intelligence testing, learning theory grew out of work by behaviorist researchers such as John Broadus Watson and B.F. Skinner, who argued that children are completely malleable. Learning theory focuses on the role of environmental factors in shaping the intelligence of children, especially on a child's ability to learn by having certain behaviors rewarded and others discouraged.

The most well-known and influential theory of cognitive development is that of French psychologist Jean Piaget. He originally trained in areas of biology and philosophy and considered himself a "genetic epistimologist." He was mainly interested in the biological influences on how we come to know. He believed that what distinguishes human beings from other animals is our ability to do "abstract symbolic reasoning." Piaget's theory, first published in 1952, grew out of decades of extensive observation of children, including his own, in their natural environments as opposed to the laboratory experiments of the behaviorists. Although Piaget was interested in how children reacted to their environment, he proposed knowledge as composed of schemas, basic units of knowledge used to organize past experiences and serve a s a basis for understanding new ones. Schemas are continually being modified by two complementary processes that Piaget termed assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation refers to the process by taking in new information by incorporating it into an existing schema. Not everything can be assimilated into existing schemas, though, and the process of accommodation must be used. In accommodation, existing schemas are modified or new schemas are created to process new information. According to Piaget, cognitive development involves an ongoing attempt to achieve a balance between assimilation and accommodation that he termed equilibration. He formulated a theory that systematically describes and explains how intellect develops. The basis of his theory is the principle that cognitive development occurs in a series of four distinct stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operations, and formal operations.

In the first, or sensorimotor, stage (birth to two years), knowledge is gained primarily through sensory impressions and motor activity. Through these two modes of learning, experienced both separately and in combination, infants gradually learn to control their own bodies and objects in the external world. Toward the end of Piaget's career, he brought about the idea that action is actually the primary source of knowledge and that perception and language are more secondary roles. He claimed that action is not random, but has organization, as well as logic. Infants from birth to four months however, are incapable of thought and are unable to differentiate themselves from others or from the environment. To infants, objects only exist when they are insight therefore objects that are out of sight are out of mind. These infants are limited to motor reflexes, but gradually build on these reflexes to develop mote sophisticated procedures learns to generalize their activities to a wider range of situations. They learn to respond to and manipulate objects and to use them in goal-directed activity. The ultimate task for a child at this stage is to develop object permanence, which is the realization that objects and people continue to exist even when they are out of sight. This accomplishment marks the end of the sensorimotor stage.

From ages two to seven years, children are in Piaget's third stage, the preoperational stage. This is a period of rapid development in language. Intelligence is demonstrated through the use of symbols and memory and imagination are developed. At this stage, thinking is still restricted. Egocentrism is predominant and they feel that everyone sees, thinks, and feels the same way they do. Children also show animistic thinking at this stage, believing that inanimate objects have feelings. A concept that is not reached yet at this age is conservation; they

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