8.1 Stages of Cognitive Development
Introduction to the ideas of Piaget and Vygotsky
Cognitive development was briefly dealt with in Chapter 5. Cognition deals with the process of knowing. It involves mental processes like thinking, reasoning, planning, decision making, and problem solving. Development refers to qualitative changes over time .Cognitive development, therefore, is about how a child’s way of knowing the world or thinking, changes over time. Piaget and Vygotsky were pioneers in this field and developed theories about the way cognitive development occurs.
Piaget a Swiss psychologist, proposed the view that children’s thinking is qualitatively different from that of adults, passing through distinct stages of development . Piaget stated that all children progress through these changes in exactly the same sequence, although the specific age at which a child makes a transition from one stage to another can vary. The stages are irreversible and the child needs to complete the first stage successfully before the next one can commence. The developmental changes in thinking represent an outcome of child’s constant effort to adapt to the physical and social environment. Adaptation involves two basic processes namely Assimilation and Accommodation. Assimilation refers to the process by which new objects and events are grasped and incorporated within the scope of existing cognitive schemas or structures. Accommodation is the process through which existing schemas or structures are modified in response to resistance to straightforward grasping or assimilation of a new object or event. This can be illustrated with the help of an example.
Suppose a 6 month old infant is accustomed to reaching out and grasping an object. But next time she encounters an object that is larger than the previous one .If the infant reaches out to grasp the object even though the object appears different, then assimilation has occurred. However, since the new object is larger than the previous one she would have to open her hand extra wide in order to successfully clasp the object, otherwise the effort would fail .Thus the new object will demand modification of the existing schema [opening her hand wider]. This kind of an internal change is known as accommodation.
Another influential view is that of L. S. Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist. His view emphasizes the role of the social environment in the development of cognitive processes in children .Vygotsky proposed that all mental activities first take place in the extemal , social world . He placed great emphasis on the role of cooperative dialogues between children and more knowledgeable members of the society .Children internalize the culture of their community i.e. ways of thinking and behaving through these interactions. The direction of development from the outside [environment] to the inside [child’s inner self] is what Vygotsky refers to as internalization. The child observes things in the social environment around us acting in a certain way and internalizes the actions so that they become part of herself.
8.2 An alternative approach-The Information Processing Perspective.
Emerging from the information processing approach is a different way of understanding thinking and related processes .This approach looks at the process of thinking in terms of active processing of information by the human brain. It involves various capacities which include processing, storage, retrieval and active manipulation of information, all of which are involved in planning, decision making and problem solving.
The processes involved in thinking start with forming mental representations of stimuli to which attention is being paid. The capacity to focus attention on aspects of the environment increases with age and seen in greater efficiency with which scanning, retrieval and retention of information occur. Schemas for interpreting new information are also formed.
The information processing perspective suggests that cognitive development can best be understood in terms of improvements in basic aspects of information processing. If emphasizes processing of that input, representation and manipulation of knowledge. It is also concerned with artificial intelligence and computation. This approach has been fruitfully applied to the study of problems in attention, memory, perception, reasoning, problem in attention, memory, perception, reasoning, problem solving and use of language.