Cognitive development


Piaget believed that children learn though their own discovery of the world and from this he used clinical interviews by engaging in open ended conversation with children and with this, used naturalistic observation to study their responses to scenarios.


Children develop through the process of cognition


Senses take in information          –         Our brains store and          –          Behaviour changes as

       from environment                         and process information                               a result




Piaget believed that babies are born with schemes which act as evolving units of knowledge that can be used to understand and respond to situations and in turn, they develop as we grow older.

§  Adaption – the process by which a child’s schemas develop to fit in with their experience of the world.

§  Assimilation – adding to existing schemas by either applying a schema to a new situation or by adding new information to a schema to a schema. Example – Sam has learned to play with toys that have wheels by pulling them along, thus creating a ‘pull along’ schema. At school he can use this schema to play with a pull along duck so now this toy can be assimilated into his ‘pull along’ schema.

§  Disequilibrium – occurs when incoming information is inconsistent with our understanding of the world. Example – Sam plays with a wind up tractor and tries to use his ‘pull along’ schema to play with it but it doesn’t work.

§  Accommodation – changing an existing schema or developing a new one in order to act effectively with a new situation – Sam develops a new ‘wind up’ schema to play with the tractor.

§  Equilibrium – achieving a state of cognitive balance. Example – Sam has created a new schema so is now happy that he can play with the tractor.


Piaget’s stages of intellectual development


Piaget identified a number of distinct stages of intellectual development with each child learning through experiences and gradually moving on to the next stage when ready.


§  Sensory motor stage (age 0-2) concerned with motor control and learning about objects


A key feature of this stage is object permanence – the ability to understand that objects exist independently and continue to exist even if they can’t be seen. Children in the sensory motor stage lack this ability. However once the child has reached the end of this stage, they have acquired general symbolic function.


Aim – Piaget set out to investigate the age at which children develop object permanence.

Method – Piaget tested different aged infants individually and with this, allowed the babies to play with a toy, the toy was then removed and hidden beneath a blanket while Piaget observed whether or not the infant would search for the toy.

Results – He found that babies under 8 months old wouldn’t search for the toy as they would simply forgot that it existed once it was out


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