Theories of Cognitive Development
There exist several theories of
cognitive development, and no one theory
has yet to explain all of the aspects of cognitive development.
These theories are presented in the following.
1) Jean Piagets stages of Development:
Piagets theory is generally thought
to be the most comprehensive theory of cognitive development.
The general principles of Piaget's theory include the following.
He felt that intelligence is an aid in how one adapts to the environment.
Intelligence can be displayed on a continuum and is shown as one
has increasingly complex responses to their environment. Equilibration
refers to how development occurs through stages - a process of
cognitive development in which children seek a balance between
the information and experiences they encounter. Piaget considered
four main stages of development. The sensorimotor stage is when
an infant develops in terms of sensory input and motor output.
In other words the infant responds reflexively to their environment
(i.e., crying, sucking, and grasping).
As well they begin to gain representational
thought at about 18-24 months as they start to be able to think
about objects and people who are not in their immediate environment.
The Proeoperational stage (2-7 years) is made up of a development
in how children can mentally represent things and verbally communicate.
The concrete-operational stage (7-12 years) is characterized by
a child's ability to mentally manipulate their thoughts about
real objects. They now have thoughts and memories of objects,
and can perform mental operations on these. The final stage of
the formal operational stage (12 onwards) is characterized by
the ability to make mental manipulations on internal and abstract
symbols - they begin to see others perspectives.
2) Neo-Piagetian Theorists:
These theorists believe in Piagets
idea of developmental stages but further it by building on his
four stages, most often suggesting a fifth stage of development
- problem finding. In this stage, an individual can figure out
what problem they are facing and decide how to solve them. This
fifth stage can be thought of as post-formal thinking in which
an individual can recognize the unfolding of evolution and thought.
3) Lev Vygotsky's Theory:
The main difference in Vygotsky's
theory is that he emphasizes the role of environemeny in children
intellectual development - that development proceeds from the
outside in - through internalization. Internalization is the process
by which an individual absorbs knowledge from their external environment.
Therefore, it is social rather than biological factors that most
affect the child. He believed that there exists a Zone of Proximal
Development (ZPD) which is the range of ability between a persons
level of abilities and their capabilities that may not be directly
exposed. Therefore when observing children's abilities we need
to be careful in how we measure them as we mat not be observing
all that they are capable of due to environmental circumstances
that prevent them from showing their fill potential.
4) Information processing Theories of Development:
This type of theorist seeks to understand
cognitive development in terms of how children at different
ages process information differently. The way that children and
all people process information includes a variety of functions
- these including perception, memory, understanding language and
speaking it, understanding numbers and being able to work with
them, problem solving and using reason and logic when thinking.