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Premises Of Cognitive Development Theory Psychology Essay

1135 words (5 pages) Essay in Psychology

5/12/16 Psychology Reference this

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Fruitful practical work of the outstanding Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980) and theoretical work of the famous Russian scientist Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) awaken our scientific interest to the cognitive-psychological researches which cover the whole human life. It is necessary to discuss cognitive development theory and forms of cognitive knowledge in the body of this essay. Also we will compare and contrast the stages of cognitive development and intelligence from the perspective of above mentioned theorists for children and adolescents.

In this part of the essay it is necessary to define the term “cognitive development” and describe the basic premises of cognitive development theory. Let’s begin our discussion from the theoretical facts presentation. It is well-known fact that cognitive development is a base area of study within developmental psychology. Oakley (2004) defined developmental psychology as “the study of the psychological changes that take place between birth and old age”. Thus, the purpose of developmental psychology is to describe and explain the changes in human mind from the birth to adulthood. Cognitive development is the study that explains how psychological processes and activities involved in knowing and thinking develop children and adolescents world. Adults’ thinking greatly differs from children thinking and cognitive development deeply studies these developments and changes.

Piaget was the first person who noted that the child’s mind is arranged quite differently than the adult psyche and children were not just small copies of adults, but in fact children were different in their ways of surrounding reality cognition and interpretation. Piaget proved his idea that knowledge in adult mind and in child mind has different structure and it doesn’t mean that adults simply know more than children. For example, children believe that if the object moves, then it is alive, and the name of the object is “sitting” inside it. Children’s question “why?” is associated with the confidence that every thing has its purpose. Writing a scientific answer to the child’s question: “Why do stars shine?” – means its absolutely misunderstanding by adult person. Lack of social orientation is noticeable in the children’s conversations: children rather speak for other people than with others. In contrast to the self-centered adults who become such people on their own will, self-centered children show such behavior because they are almost incapable to put themselves on others place, or take someone else’s point of view.

Comparing and contrasting views of Vygotsky and Piaget on cognitive development and in continuation of the topic we see the next: Vygotsky considered Piaget’s work revolutionary, but at the same time he stressed that its pioneering quality suffered on dualism, that is, uncertainty about the materialist and idealist positions. Since the psychology of intellectual development has been studied in the tradition of scientific materialism, inevitably there was a conflict between the actual essence of this method and idealistic theories of human intelligence. It was a serious debate, especially between 1920 and 1930, when the development of experimental psychology became a serious threat to the idealistic, nonmaterialistic and philosophical trends in psychology.

Neisser (1967) stated that there were three main principles in the base of Peaget’s theory of cognitive development: “assimilation (the process of putting a new experience into already existing mental structure), accommodation (the revising of an existing schema due to a new experience) and equilibrium (the process of seeking to achieve cognitive stability through assimilation and accommodation).” And Oakley (2004) stated that “Vygotsky’s theory focused upon three key factors. These were culture, language and the zone of proximal development.” According to Wertsch (1985), “Vygotsky agreed with Piaget that a child does not sit back and somehow passively absorb knowledge but instead actively constructs knowledge. This idea was in direct contrast to the view of Pavlov that learning was essentially a passive activity. However, Vygotsky’s theory differs in key principles from Piaget. He stated that children’s complex thinking was acquired through social interactions between children and the adults around them. The child will interact with others – peers, parents and teachers – and these interactions will result in learning.”

Contrasting two theorists’ points of views we see that Piaget considers that the child’s thinking develops from autistic form through egocentric – to a socialized. Vygotsky agrees with the general periodization of Piaget, but rejects the genetic predetermination of the sequence. In other words, Piaget believed that development precedes learning, and Vygotsky believed that learning precedes development.

Other point of disagreement between these two theorists was the nature and function of speech. Piaget considers that egocentric child’s speech, addressed to itself during the “thinking aloud”, paving the way for social speech, and allows child to learn experience patterns and begin to use speech for communication. Vygotsky considers that the mind of the child from the birth has the social nature and egocentric speech has also social origins and social objectives: children learn egocentric speech of others, and use it to communicate with others. This premise – is the main point of the theory of Vygotsky and the main aspect of differences between the positions of these two theorists.

Analyzing stages of cognitive development Wertsch (1985) shows four Piaget’s stages of cognitive development: sensorimotor stage (infancy) – motor activity without symbols’ use is necessary for intelligence demonstration; pre-operational stage (toddler and early childhood) – symbols are used, memory and imagination are developed, language use matures, but egocentric thinking predominates; concrete operational stage (elementary and early adolescence) – egocentric thinking diminishes, systematic and logical symbols’ manipulation related to concrete objects; formal operational stage (adolescence and adulthood) – abstract concepts used in thinking process. While Piaget’s cognitive development theory has four concrete stages, Vygotsky said that there are no set stages at all, but put our attention on affiliation, play, learning, peer, work.

For the last part of the paper I want to use Slavin’s (2003) words who said that “a possible classroom application of Vygotsky’s cognitive theory could take place in a first grade classroom. First grade students are often on varying levels of knowledge. Some children may already know how to read while others are still trying to master this concept. A good way to help the children who are not reading as well as the others may be to give these children help sounding out a word when they get stuck while reading a story.”

Thus, basing on above observed information we could conclude that according to both theorists formal operational thinking marks the end of intellectual growth. The child went a long way from simple reflexes to complex thoughts newborn adolescents and adults. And Piaget came to the conclusion that reality is not the thing that an individual reaches the outside, but inside, through his own logic, depending on the structure of the psyche.

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