cognitive theories

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Schemas & Operations

Schema = mental structures used to organise past experiences and provide a way of understanding future experiences e.g. how to ride a bike

Operation = process of working something out in your head. Young children have to act and try things out in the real world to understand things e.g. counting on fingers - older children & adults do more in their heads

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Piaget's Process of Adaptation

Assimilation = existing schemas have to be modified to fit new situations. Existing schemas are expanded or new ones are created e.g. baby uses it's innate feeding schema to **** on all ******* (mother's or baby bottles)

Equilibrium = new experience can easily be understood using existingschemas e.g. child can deal with the world

New Situation = novel situation/stimulus the child has not yet experiencede.g. baby encounters a drinking beaker for ther first time

Disequilibrium = a new experience cannot be easily understood usingexisting schemas e.g. baby's ****ing schema is not appropriate - big mess made!

Accommodation = new situations are understood in terms of the schemas the child already possesses. World is 'fitted' into what the child alreadyknows

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Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

  • Constructivist approach - child constructs a mental representation of the world, through development of schemas using assimilation & accommodation
  • Independently expore world and learn what it needs to know without assitance/instruction from others - 'little scientist'
  • Cognitive development is limited by maturational processes
  • Language only appears when child is at a sufficient stage of development - language is a result of C.D rather than a driving force
  • They are universal - all children pass through them
  • Sequence of stages remains the same for all children - they areinvariant.
  • Age at which a child passes through any stage can vary
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Piaget's Stage Theory

Sensorimotor - Birth > 2 years Childs understanding of world is restricted to sensations &movements Cognitive system is limited to motor reflexes at birth

  • Begin to act intentionally e.g. shaking a rattle to make a noise
  • Achieves object permanence - things continue to exist when no longer present
  • Learning takes place via assimilation & accommodation
  • Period of 'trial-and-error' beings
  • Thinking is egocentric Preoperation - 2 > 7 years Preconceptual Period - 2 > 4 years - make use of symbols/words/images e.g. pretend a row of blocks is a series of carriages in a train, show characterisitc errors in thought- egocentrism & centration, dominated by perception Intuitive Period - 4 > 7 years - child can class things more generally Concrete Operational - 7 > 11 years Can think logically about objects & events Achieves conservation of number/mass/weight
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Piaget's Concepts

Object Permanence = a child knows how to react to the disappearance of an object they knew was previously there e.g. a baby loses it's teddy, won't look for it, but won't forget it - 'out of sight out of mind'

Conservation = ability to understand that changing the appearance of a material, does not affect it's mass etc e.g. changing the shape of modelling clay does not change it's mass etc

Egocentrisim = when a child cannot see the world form anyone else's point of view e.g. hiding behind hands, 'you can't see me can you?' - 'if i know you know'

Centration = child can only deal with one situation at a time e.g. box of blue triangle & squares - only able to concentrate on the shape or colour, not both (decentering = opposite)

Abstract Thought = ideas & concepts that you cannot see, but know is there e.g. religion

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Piaget's Research

Object Permanence Research -

  • Observed infants looking at attractive object when removed from sight
  • From 8 months, actively look for the object e.g. pushed behind a screen, infants would push screen away
  • Prior to 8 months, unable to understand existence of object when out of sight, O.P not developed
  • Sometimes when O.P. has developed, may look wrongly even when seen object before - multiple steps involved Conservation Research -
  • Liquid experiment (tall/short glasses)
  • Number of counters experiment (rows pushed together/spaced apart)

Alternative - McGarrigle + Donaldson > children did understand there were the same amount of counters, assumed Piaget wanted them to say there were fewer; Piaget condition 16% were correct, exp. condition ('naughty teddy') 62% were correct = Piaget's methods were flawed, what the adult's want to hear

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Evaluation of Piaget

Samples small and unrepresentative few participant details given & often used his own children Task Difficulty

In tasks easier than Piaget's children had ability much earlier than he suggested May have confused children Research Methods Clinical interviews = too subjective & liable to lead child in certain direction - valid method, comparison of data maybe difficult

Observations = detailed & very extensive

  • Failure To Successfully Complete task
  • Object permanence may occur earlier than he believed
  • Other possible reasons for failing to search for object - loss of interest
  • Does not imply child is unable to successfully complete task
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Vygotsky's Theory of Cognitive Development - Alter

  • Culture, social interaction & language are fundamental to C.D
  • Child actively constructs it's own knowledge, which is socially & culturally determined by interaction with parents, peers and more experienced others
  • 'Child as apprentice'
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Vygotsky - Social Interaction & Context

  • Learning emerges in a social context e.g. mothers and children interacting, where the mother is modelling behaviour
  • Child learns by watching and working with others
  • The behaviours learned determined by society and culture of individual

Research Evidence - Wertsch etal (1980)

  • Mothers and children ages of 2 and 4 given task of building a truck so it looked like a model they could refer to
  • When the Mothers of the younger children looked at the model, this was followed by their children looking at the model on 90% of occasions
  • Older children 'looking' behaviour was much less influenced by what their Mother's were doing
  • Social factors in form of Mothers 'looking' behaviour had much more impact on younger children
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Vygotsky - Language

  • Speech is social in nature & a form of social interaction/emotional expression
  • Language & thought are seperate functions in children under 2 years
  • Language used to control behaviour as the child becomes older, often speak aloud to direct actions
  • From 7 years +, it becomes internalised & inner speech develops - language can now direct/control thinking
  • Inner speech greatly improves our powers of problem solving

Research Evidence - Berk (1994)

  • Vygotsky argued that private speech diminishes + becomes more internal as performance levels improve
  • Berk discussed a study where 4/5 year old children made lego models 3 sessions
  • As predicted by Vygotsky the childrens speech became increasingly internalised from session to session as their model-making performance
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Vygotsky - Zone of Proximal Developmetn (ZPD)

  • ZPD is the difference between a child's current & potential abilites
  • It refers to abilities that have not yet developed, but are in the process of maturing
  • Potential is achieved with the guidance of 'more experienced' others

Research Evidence - Wood etal (1976)

  • Found that on a construction task with 4 and 5 year olds, different mothers used different instructional strategies of varying levels of specificity - ranged from general verbal encouragement to direct demonstration of a relevant action
  • No single strategy guaranteed learning, but the most efficient maternal instructors were those who combined general + specifc interventions according to the child's progress
  • Factors; interst, simplifying task, motivation, emphasising relevant aspects and giving correct solution to problems
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Evaluation of Vygotsky

  • Theory is sketchy and unclear in places due to lack of empircal evidence- this resulted in limited negative criticism
  • This may be because it focuses on the process of C.D rather than the outcome, there is however a growing amount of evidence to support the theory
  • The importance of social interaction & environment is over emphasised - does not allows for individual differences such as motivation and an interest in learning
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Bruner's Theory of Cognitive Development - Alterna

  • Rejects the idea of developmental stages
  • Concerned with how knowledge was represented
  • Bruner suggested the idea of scaffolding - where adults 'scaffold' the children's behaviour, acting as a support by providing a framework for the desired behaviours
  • He also showed the idea of 'spiral curriculum' - where the basic outline of a subject is taught, this is then built upto finer details through the years as the child gets older
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Bruner's Modes Of Representation

Enactive - birth > 1 year

  • Child represents the world through actions (motor events)
  • Corresponds to Piaget's sensorimotor stage

Iconic - 1 > 7 years

  • Uses sensory images, sounds/smells which resemble those associated with the real situation they represent
  • Involves using mental images of experiences - icons
  • Corresponds to the last 6 months of the sensorimotor stage & the whole of the preoperational stage

Symbolic - 7 years +

  • Child uses symbols to represent things
  • Child is freed from immediate context
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Evaluation of Bruner

  • Bruner's ideas have been extremely useful in education - 'spiral curriculum'
  • Strong support for the idea that as children mature they become capable of different types of mental representation
  • The idea of scaffolding plugs the gap between the work of Vygotsky and the role of adults in relation to ZPD
  • If logical thought is linked to language aquisition, then surely children should be capable of advanced logic once they have mastered language efficiently
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