Summary & Resources:Piagets Stages of Cognitive Development

Summary & Resources:Piagets Stages of Cognitive Development

• Because of the qualitative differences in thinking that Piaget consistently observed across the same-aged children, he developed a stage theory of cognitive development.

• Sensorimotor development is the first of four Piagetian stages of cognitive develop- ment. Children rely on their senses and actions to learn about themselves and how the world operates.

• A key aspect of the sensorimotor stage is the mastery of object permanence, when infants begin to understand that objects continue to exist even if they cannot be seen.

• During the preoperational stage, thought is dominated by the growth of mental representation, but children are limited by their dependence on appearance and a sense of egocentrism. These limitations are reflected in children’s failure to grasp the concept of conservation and immature classification skills.

• When children begin to decenter, marked by Piaget’s famous experiments with con- servation, they have reached the stage of concrete operations.

• Piaget’s final stage, formal operations, begins during adolescence. This stage is char- acterized by abstract thought, including the use of hypothetico-deductive reasoning. David Elkind has proposed that formal operations give rise to the personal fable and the imaginary audience, signifying adolescent egocentrism.

• Piaget’s theories have stood the test of thousands of experiments, but legitimate criticisms remain. Probably the most common criticism of Piaget’s theory is that development occurs in four consistent, discontinuous stages. It is also frequently reported that cultural experiences affect the timing and length of stages, as well as the order and rate at which some operations are attained

• Piaget’s theory is well regarded in the United States educational system. However, contemporary educational requirements are often in opposition to Piaget’s concep- tualization of development.

• Piaget’s focus on what children cannot do may have led him to underestimate capabilities.

• Piaget also failed to account for changes that might occur in adult thinking.

Beyond Formal Thought

• Gisela Labouvie-Vief is often credited as a leading advocate of of postformal thought, where it is theorized that adults become engaged in increasingly more complex kinds of reflection.

• Compared to adolescents, adults are better able to consider multiple points of view, pragmatism, moral judgment, and emotion in place of strict rules of logic.

• William Perry argued that adults tend to move from viewing the world in polarities to less rigid thinking. According to him, this change is expressed as a change from dualistic thinking to relativistic thinking.

• The reflective judgment model proposes that there are distinct stages of postfor-mal cognitive development. According to this model, reasoning goes beyond logic and progresses from prereflective thinking to quasireflective thinking and finally to reflective thinking.

• Adult thinking is also characterized by a gradual integration of emotion and pragma- tism in the place of strict rules of logic.

• K. Warner Schaie is most interested in understanding how adults’ use of information changes. He identifies five stages of cognitive development.

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Summary & Resources

Sociocultural Theory

• Vygotsky theorized that cognitive development is mediated by social interaction. Children internalize the actions of their culture by participation. The context for learning contributes to individual growth.

• The zone of proximal development focuses on the tasks a child cannot perform alone but could with assistance. Therefore, it focuses on the potential of children rather than on what they already know.

• Although not a term coined by Vygotsky, scaffolding has become closely linked with his theory and teachings.

• Sociocultural theory fails to fully explain limitations in more advanced thinking among young children.

• Vygotsky’s sociocultural approach to cognitive development has had a strong impact on contemporary education, especially with regards to collaborative activities.

• Jean Piaget’s stage theory and Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory represent two of the three major theories of cognitive development. Though inconsistent at times, they share a constructivist point of view.

Information Processing

• The information-processing model of memory explains that we sense environmental stimuli and then construct memory in three stages: encoding of information, storage of information, and retrieval of memories to conscious awareness.

• Executive function refers to increased sophistication that allows people to efficiently manage their own thinking and behavior. Two primary aspects of executive function- ing are metacognition and self-regulation.

The Three Stages of Memory

• The stage model of memory describes how we can connect three separate memory processes to daily life: sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory.

• Sensory memory acts as a filter; before the brain can remember something, it first needs to perceive the stimulus. After you attend to a stimulus, it becomes part of your short-term memory. Short-term memory is temporary and will rapidly decay unless information is encoded into long-term memory.

• The conscious processing of short-term memory is most often conceptualized as working memory. Working memory temporarily stores and manages information, similar to RAM or flash memory in a computer.

• Unlike short-term memories, which become lost over time, long-term memories are fairly permanent. Long-term memories can be further broken down into explicit and implicit memories.

• Explicit memory (including both episodic and semantic memories) refers to infor- mation that is consciously available. Implicit memory involves a lack of conscious awareness, like priming and memories for physical skills.

Memory Across the Lifespan

• We know that memory traces begin during infancy, but we are unsure how and when they become durable.

• While we may associate aging with memory loss, older adult students often have cognitive advantages over younger students because of their life experiences.

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Summary & Resources

• Healthy older adults continue to gain semantic memory, while early episodic memo- ries remain robust.

• There is evidence that although overall cognition remains strong during early adult- hood and most of middle adulthood, working memory begins to decline shortly after it peaks. Biopsychological evidence indicates a strong physiological basis for the development of working memory.

• It is normal to have more difficulty finding a particular word or name beginning with middle adulthood.

Critical Thinking and Discussion Questions

1. In what way do the section review questions facilitate postformal thought as concep- tualized by Perry and others?

2. If you were tutoring another student, how would you determine that person’s zone of proximal development?

3. How does social constructivism influence how literacy is promoted in education? 4. Describe the processes of perceptual attention when listening to a song in a noisy

restaurant. 5. Describe the differences between sensory memory, short-term (and working)

memory, and long-term memory with regards to reading and understanding the information in this chapter.

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