Cognition and Development Piagets Theory (8+16)

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Piaget's Stages AO1 (8 Marks)

  • The sensorimotor period- 0-2 years
    • Comprised of six sub-stages. The newborn baby develops from using automatic reflexes to the toddler who can carry out delibirate actions
  •  The pre-operational period- 2-7 years
    • The mergence of language allows the toddler to use words as symbold for objects. Thinking is limited and characterised by animism, egocentrism and a lack of reversibilty
  • Concrete operations- 7-11 years
    • This stage is characterised by the childs growing ability to decentre. The child develops the ability to perform mental operations and to reason about objects and relations between them.
  • Formal operations- 11 onwards
    • The ability to think and reason about abstract ideas and problems is developed.
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Piagets Theory AO1 (8 Marks)

  • Piaget belived that children constructed their understanding of the world through active engagement, trying out actions and seeing what effects they had
  • He argued that knowledge is stored in the form of schemas-mental ideas about actions, objects and situations.
  • In very young babies, schemas consist of simple actions such as grasping objects.
  • Combinations of schemas are known as operations: Shaking a rattle for example.
  • Piaget believed that cognitive abilities developed through assimilation and accomodation
    • assimilation is using an existing schema to deal with a new onject or situation
    • accomodation is modifying or changing an existing schema to deal with a new object or situation.
  • Piaget also believed that the cognitive development of young children did not take place at a steady rate but, rather, in leaps and bounds.
  • periods of stability were characterised by equilibrium: a mental state in which existing schemas could deal with most new info through assimilation.
  • At other times, the child may meet many new objects and experiences which cannot be assimilated and this state is called disequilibrium. 
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AO2/AO3 points (16 marks)

  • Margaret Donaldson wrote an influential book in 1978 called 'children's minds' in which she argued that pre-school children were capable of more sophisticated reasoning that Piaget had suggested.
    • However, Donaldson pointed out that their understanding is embedded in everyday familiar situations and they make use of context to work out exactly what is meant
  • Donaldson argued that young children can understand another person's viewpoint if they are asked in a way which draws on their knowledge of an everyday situation which makes sense to them. A game of hide and seek fo example.
  • Hughes (1975) studied children aged between 3 1/2 and 5.
    • They were shown a 3D model of 2 intersecting walls and a toy policeman was placed at the end of one so able to see into 2 of the sections.
    • Children were asked to hide the doll where the policeman couldnt see it.
    • He found that 90% of the children placed the doll in a correct position, suggesting strongly that children can take someone else's perspective if they understand the task
    • Even when a 2nd policman was introduced, children could complete the task.
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AO2/AO3 points (16 marks)

  • Limitations
    • Piaget underestimated childrens abilities at younger ages, and may have overestimated the ability to use abstract logic in the formal operational stage
    • His theory focuses too much on logic and generally ignores social factors, such as the benefit of cooperative group work
    • The method used to research childrens behaviour was flawed
      • involved children from European academic families who valued certain aspects of cognitive development such as logical thinking-in other cultures and social classes greater value may be placed on a more basic level of concrete operations.
      • the design may have confused younger children which may explain why they seemed less capable- in the conservation experiments it was they way the children were asked which made the task difficult
      • Samuel and Bryant (1984) showed that younger children did better when only asked once after the transformation if the two displays were the same.
      • Mcgarrigle and Donaldson (1975) argued that the delibirate transformation in the conservation experiment acted as demand characteristics demanding an alternative response.
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AO2/AO3 points (16 marks)

  • Strengths
    • Piaget remains one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century with his theory having an enormous influence on education and psychological research.
  • Piagets idea of conservation can also relate to explanations of gender development whereby young children show the same inabilty to conserve. for example if a women cut all her hair off they may claim she is now a man as they are misled by external superficial changes.
  • Nature and Nurture-
    • Piagets theory combines nature with nurture to explain cognitive development, however piagets conseption of nurture is more focused on the physical environment whereas Vygotsky and Bruner emphasised the social environment
  • Piaget emphasised the stage-like nature of childrens development, seeing this as loosley linked to age.
    • Stage theories of this nature have emphasised the importance of maturation and biological factors in the development of thinking but have tended to overlook the importance of social and cultural factors which influence the nature and speed of development
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Piaget's Study AO1 (8 Marks)

  • Piaget and Inhelder (1967)
    • used paper mache model of three mountains placed on a table
    • the mountains were different colours and topped by different features (snow,cross, house)
    • Children aged between 3 and 8 were encouraged to explore model and walk around it to see it from all sides.
    • a small boy doll was then placed at different points on the table and the children were asked to carry out various tasks to test their ability to 'see' from the dolls' viewpoint.
      • The child was given 3 cardboard shapes of the mountains and asked to arrange them to show what the doll could see
      • The child was given 10 pictures and asked to select which one the boy doll could see
      • The child was asked to choose any picture and then say where the doll needed to stand in order to see that view.
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