Psychology Study Material: Cognitive Development and Piagetian Method of Investigation

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Cognitive Development

Cognitive development is the development of the ā€˜thinkingā€™ and ā€˜organizing systemsā€™ of the brain.

Cognitive Development

It involves

  • Language,
  • Mental imagery,
  • Thinking,
  • Reasoning,
  • Problem solving and
  • Memory development

Jean Piaget՚s (1896 - 1980) Theory of Cognitive Development

  • Piaget was a Swiss psychologist. He was a very keen observer from the very beginning; got published his first research paper at age 15.
  • As a result of his study of philosophy and logic, he became interested in epistemology i.e.. , knowledge and knowing; the interest in observation and epistemology made a foundation of his theory of cognitive development.
  • Piaget was influenced by Henri Bergson՚s Creative Evolution, unlike most of the other psychologists who were impressed by Darwin՚s theory of evolution. Bergson believed in divine agency instead of chance as the force behind evolution: life possesses an inherent creative impulse.
  • Piaget did his doctorate in Biological Science, but later became interested in psychology especially abnormal psychology.
  • He secured a position in Alfred Binet՚s laboratory In Paris where he got a chance to observe children՚s performance, their right and wrong answers.
  • Piaget՚s work and observation generated an interest in children՚s mental processes.
  • The real shift took place when he started observing his own children from birth onwards. He kept records of their behaviour and used them to trace the origins of children՚s thoughts to their behaviour as babies; later on, he became interested in the thought of adolescents as well

Piagetian Method of Investigation

  • Known as the Clinical Approach; a form of a structured observation.
  • Piaget used to present problems/tasks to children of different ages, asked them to explain their answers. Their explanations were further probed through carefully phrased question.

Piaget՚s Stages of Cognitive Development

  • Sensorimotor stage
  • Preoperational stage
  • Concrete operational stage
  • Formal operational stage

Sensorimotor Stage

Age: Infancy; Birth-2 years

Major Characteristic

  • Thought confined to action schemes.
  • Development of object permanence.
  • Development of motor skills.
  • Little or no capacity for symbolic representation.

Preoperational Stage

Age: Preschool; 2 - 7 years

Major Characteristics

Representational thought.

  • Thought is intuitive not logical.
  • Development of language and symbolic thinking takes place.
  • Thinking is egocentric.

Concrete Operational Stage

Age: Childhood; 7 - 11 years

Major Characteristics

  • Thought is systematic and logical, but only with regard to concrete objects.
  • Development of conservation, and mastery of concept of reversibility.

Formal Operational Stage

Age: Adolescence and adulthood; 11 years onward

Major Characteristics

  • Abstract and logical thought develops.
  • The person can deal with the abstract and the absent.