cognitive development aqa a2 psychology


Cognitive development: Module 3:

Piaget’s theory:

· Children think in different ways at different ages.

· Children learn through discovery learning.

· Children learn through, schemas, adaptation, assimilation and accommodation.

A schema is a unit of knowledge. Babies are born with simple schema e.g. sucking and grasping schemas.

The process of developing schemas in response to experience of the world is called Adaptation.

It occurs through two processes:

Assimilation- adding to an existing schema, or applying and existing schema to a new situation.

Accommodation- altering a schema or developing a new schema to cope with a new situation.

Disequilibrium: is a state where cognitive imbalance is experienced when what we know about the world is inconsistent with incoming information.

Equilibrium: is a state of cognitive balance is restored through accommodation

Stages of intellectual development:

4 invariant and universal stages, the Childs understanding is different at each stage.

1) 0 to 2 years – sensory motor stage:

· Knowledge is limited to simple reflexes and sensations.

· No object concept, the child has no awareness of objects outside the immediate.

· In early stage there is no distinction between self and others.

· Intentional behavior begins at 8months.

· At the end of stage general symbolic function is acquired, the child understands one thing can stand for another.

· Object permanence arises at 8months, the understanding that objects continue to exists even when out of sight.

Study: Piaget (19 63): tested object permanence by taking a child’s toy and hiding it underneath a blanket. Before 8months children would not reach for the hidden toy, after 8months they would search for it, showing object permanence.


- Failure to reach for the toy might have meant children thought it was not allowed or they have locked motor skills.

- Other studies show object permanence at 3months, Bower and Wishart (1972): turned out the lights and found that infants continued to reach for and object in the dark.

2) 2 to 7 years – pre-operational stage:

· Children cannot perform many cognitive tasks.

· There are two sub stages:

- Pre-conceptual stage (2 to 4 years)

- Intuitive stage (4 to 7 years)

· Typical thinking errors e.g. cynicism – attributing feelings to inanimate objects and concentration – they can only concentrate on one thing at a time.

· Egocentrism: the inability to think of something from another point of view.

Study: Piaget & inhelder (19 56): showed 4 to 12year olds a model of three mountains. A doll was placed somewhere on the model. From the other side of the model the child had to choose the view the doll would be able to see. 4 to 5years showed their own view. 7to 8 showed correct view. Therefore pre-conceptual children cannot decentre. They are egocentric.


Study: Hughs (19 78): showed 3½ - 5yearr olds a model with intersecting walls. A boy doll and a policeman doll where positioned in the model. The child had to


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