OCR GCSE Psychology - Cognitive Development

  • Created by: redmeek
  • Created on: 14-05-19 19:46

GCSE OCR Psychology: Cognitive Development

Key concepts:

Stages of Development


First trimester (16 weeks after fertilisation)

Neural tube forms (this becomes the brain and spinal cord)

-          6-10 weeks: cells are created

-          8-29 weeks of gestation: migration – cells move to the correct location in the brain and develop into neurons

-          2 months gestation: neural tube divides into brain + nerve cells

-          Cerebral cortex forms and divides into 4

Second trimester

-          Brain is fully developed but not fully grown

-          Synapses form

-          Nervous system develops, foetus can react 


After birth, the brain develops 1000 new neural connections per second

Visual cortex synapses double up to 4 months

Age 3: synaptic density of prefrontal cortex allow child to recall past experiences

Understand cause and effect

Late childhood: connections pruned


Grey matter = maximum density

Limbic system matures

Prefrontal cortex (decision making) matures later

Maturity: age 16


25 years: prefrontal cortex fully developed (reduces impulsiveness)

Develop neurodegenerative diseases (result in death of neurones)

Brain Structures and Function

Cerebrum = main section

Cerebral cortex:

-          Outer layer of cerebrum

-          Appears grey due to dendrites on surface (grey matter)

Key Theory 1: Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

Stage 1: Sensorimotor stage (0-2 years)

The child begins to interact with the environment
The baby explores using its senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, sound) with its body movements. Initially movements are reflexes e.g. grasping or sucking reflex.

Stage 2: Preoperational stage (2-7 years)

Symbolic thinking: the child begins to use symbols, signs and objects to represent things
Animism: child thinks inanimate objects have feelings
Ecocentrism: the child is only capable of seeing the world from one’s own perspective (understanding the world as an extension of oneself)

Stage 3: Concrete Operational Stage (7-11 years)

Decentration: the ability to consider multiple aspects of a situation in order to solve a problem

Conservation: Understanding that something is the same, even though is appearance has changed.

When child is shown identical glasses, each filled with the same amount of liquid, the child said they were the same. When a glass of water is poured into a taller but narrower glass, the child can now identify that there is still the same amount of liquid (unlike in previous stages)

Centration: the tendency to focus on one aspect of a situation and neglect others.

Reversibility: the child can work backwards in thinking (e.g. if they know that they have a sister, then their sister must have a sibling too)


Stage 4: Formal Operational Stage (11+)

The child can manipulate ideas unlike in the previous stage in which children could only manipulate things.
Children can solve problems in systematic ways and think creatively.


Three Mountains Task

Piaget conducted the ‘three mountains task’. A doll was placed at different points on a table. The child was shown photographs of the mountains


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