Health And Social Care: Intellectual

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  • Created on: 30-11-17 12:07

Unit 1

Unit 1 Human Lifespan Development: Intellectual (theories)

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Intellectual: Theories


Piaget's (1936) theory of cognitive development explains how a child constructs a mental model of the world. He disagreed with the idea that intelligence was a fixed trait, and regarded cognitive development as a process which occurs due to biological maturation and interaction with the environment.

The goal of the theory is to explain the mechanisms and processes by which the infant, and then the child, develops into an individual who can reason and think using hypotheses.

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Piaget's Model

The Sensorimotor Stage: Birth – 2 years

Children experience the world and gain knowledge through their senses and motor movements. As children interact with their environments, they go through an astonishing amount of cognitive growth in a relatively short period of time.

During the sensorimotor stage, an infant's knowledge of the world is limited to his or her sensory perceptions and motor activities. Behaviours are limited to simple motor responses caused by sensory stimuli.

Object Permanence - According to Piaget, developing object permanence is one of the most important accomplishments at the sensorimotor stage of development. Object permanence is a child's understanding that objects continue to exist even though they cannot be seen or heard.

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Piaget's Model

Sub-stages of the Sensorimotor Stage:

The sensorimotor stage can be divided into six separate sub-stages that are characterized by the development of a new skill:

1. Reflexes (0-1 month): During this sub-stage, the child understands the environment purely through inborn reflexes such as ****ing and looking.

2. Primary Circular Reactions (1-4 months): This sub-stage involves coordinating sensation and new schemas. For example, a child may **** his or her thumb by accident and then later intentionally repeat the action. These actions are repeated because the infant finds them pleasurable.

3. Secondary Circular Reactions (4-8 months): During this sub-stage, the child becomes more focused on the world and begins to intentionally repeat an action in order to trigger a response in the environment. For example, a child will purposefully pick up a toy in order to put it in his or her mouth.

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Piaget's Model

4. Coordination of Reactions (8-12 months): During this sub-stage, the child starts to show clearly intentional actions. The child may also combine schemas in order to achieve a desired effect. Children begin exploring the environment around them and will often imitate the observed behaviour of others. The understanding of objects also begins during this time and children begin to recognize certain objects as having specific qualities. For example, a child might realize that a rattle will make a sound when shaken.

5. Tertiary Circular Reactions (12-18 months): Children begin a period of trial-and-error experimentation during the fifth sub-stage. For example, a child may try out different sounds or actions as a way of getting attention from a caregiver.

6. Early Representational Thought (18-24 months): Children begin to develop symbols to represent events or objects in the world in the final sensorimotor sub-stage. During this time, children begin to move towards understanding the world through mental operations rather than purely through actions.

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Piaget's Model

Pre-Operational: 2-7 Years

During this stage, children begin to engage in symbolic play and learn to manipulate symbols. Language development is one of the hallmarks of this period. Piaget noted that children in this stage do not yet understand concrete logic, they cannot mentally manipulate information and are unable to take the point of view of other people, which he termed egocentrism.

Egocentrism - Piaget used a number of creative and clever techniques to study the mental abilities of children. One of the famous techniques to demonstrate egocentrism involved using a three-dimensional display of a mountain scene.  Often referred to as the "Three Mountain Task," children are asked to choose a picture that showed the scene they had observed.

Most children are able to do this with little difficulty. Next, children are asked to select a picture showing what someone else would have observed when looking at the mountain from a different viewpoint. Consistently, children almost always choose the scene showing their own view of the mountain scene. According to Piaget, children experience this difficulty because they are unable to take on another person's perspective.

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Piaget's Model

Concrete Operational: 7-12 Years

Major Characteristics and Developmental Changes

-During this stage, children begin to thinking logically about concrete events.

-They begin to understand the concept of conservation; that the amount of liquid in a short, wide cup is equal to that in a tall, skinny glass, for example.

-Their thinking becomes more logical and organized, but still very concrete.

-Children begin using inductive logic, or reasoning from specific information to a general principle.

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Piaget's Model


A state of cognitive balance when a child’s experience is in line with what they understand.


A state of cognitive imbalance between experience and what is understood


Modifying schemas (concepts) in relation to new information and experiences


Is a mental concept that informs a person about what to expect from a variety of experiences and situations. Schemas are developed based on information provided by life experiences and are then stored in memory.

Tests of Conservation

Refers to a logical thinking ability which, according to the psychologist Jean Piaget, is not present in children during the preoperational stage of their development at ages 2–7, but develops in the concrete operational stage at ages 7–11.

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Piaget's Model

Conservation is the understanding that something stays the same in quantity even though its appearance changes. To be more technical conservation is the ability to understand that redistributing material does not affect its mass, number, volume or length.

By around seven years the majority of children can conserve, because they understand that when water is poured into a different shaped glass, the quantity of liquid remains the same, even though its appearance has changed. Five-year-old children would think that there was a different amount because the appearance has changed.

Conservation of number develops soon after this. Piaget set out a row of counters in front of the child and asked her/him to make another row the same as the first one. Piaget spread out his row of counters and asked the child if there were still the same number of counters. Most children aged seven could answer this correctly, and Piaget concluded that this showed that by seven years of age children were able to conserve number.

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Critics of Piaget

Problems with Research Methods -

Much of the criticism of Piaget's work is in regards to his research methods. A major source of inspiration for the theory was Piaget's observations of his own three children.

In addition to this, the other children in Piaget's small research sample were all from well-educated professionals of high socioeconomic status. Because of this unrepresentative sample, it is difficult to generalize his findings to a larger population.

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Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky proposed that every child was born with an  Language Acquistion Device (LAD)that holds the necessary rules for language; he believed children are born with an understanding of the rules of language, they simply need to acquire the vocabulary. He believed language evolves naturally like walking.He believed it was the LAD that allowed children to develop language at a rapid speed.

Chomsky offered a number of pieces of evidence to support his theory. He posed that language is fundamentally similar across all of humanity. For instance, every language has something that is like a noun and a verb, and every language has the ability to make things positive or negative.

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Noam Chomsky

From his experiments, Chomsky also noted that young children, well before reaching language fluency, would notice if adults around them spoke in a grammatically incorrect manner; he pointed out that a child could not possibly learn a language through imitation alone because the language spoken around them is highly irregular – adult’s speech is often broken up and even sometimes ungrammatical. He also found that children attempt to apply grammatical rules to words for which their language makes an exception. For example, in following the English rules of grammar, a child might pluralize the word 'fish' as 'fishes' and 'deer' as 'deers‘.

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Noam Chomsky

Evidence to support Chomsky’s Theory

Mistakes such as ‘I drawed’ instead of ‘I drew’ show they are not learning through imitation alone. Chomsky used the sentence ‘colourless green ideas sleep furiously’, which is grammatical although it doesn’t make sense, to prove his theory: he said it shows that sentences can be grammatical without having any meaning, that we can tell the difference between a grammatical and an ungrammatical sentence without ever having heard the sentence before, and that we can produce and understand brand new sentences that no one has ever said before. Children often say things that are ungrammatical such as ‘mama ball’, which they cannot have learnt passively.

 Evidence against his theory

Critics of Chomsky’s theory say that although it is clear that children don’t learn language through imitation alone, this does not prove that they must have an LAD  – language learning could merely be through general learning and understanding abilities and interactions with other people.

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