Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development Research Paper Starter

Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development

(Research Starters)

While Sigmund Freud focused much of his research and observations on people's recollections of infancy, Jean Piaget's research focused directly on children. Piaget studied cognitive development among children in order to understand the relationship between mental processes (e.g. perception, memory, attitudes and decision-making) and social behavior (i.e. between what people feel and think and what they do in practice). His approach emphasized children's abilities to make sense of their immediate everyday surroundings (their worlds), by selecting and interpreting sensory information (what they see, hear and feel). Piaget's approach to understanding psychological development differs from other approaches because of his emphasis on stages of development and emotions and the implications of this work for learning theories and understandings about moral development. As part of his study of cognitive development, Piaget also studied how children developed moral reasoning, which influenced other researchers in the field of education and learning, including Bruno Bettelheim.

Jean Piaget

Socialization can be defined as the type of social learning that occurs when a person interacts with other individuals. It refers to a process through which individuals learn to become members of society by internalizing social norms, values, and expectations and by learning the appropriate cognitive, personal, and social skills they need to function as productive members of their community.

While Sigmund Freud, known as the father of psychoanalysis, focused much of his research and observations about socialization and human development on people's recollections of infancy, Jean Piaget's research focused directly on children and their experiences of the world. Piaget studied cognitive development among children, that is, the relationship between mental processes (perception, memory, attitude, and decision-making) and social behavior. His approach emphasized children's abilities to make sense of their immediate, everyday surroundings by selecting and interpreting sensory information. Piaget's approach to understanding psychological development differs from other approaches because of his emphasis on stages of development and the implications of this work for theories of learning and moral development. As part of his study of cognitive development, Piaget also studied how children develop moral reasoning, which influenced other researchers in the field of education and learning, including American child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim.

Constructivism

During his lifetime, Jean Piaget became a well-known developmental psychologist for his studies of children, his theory of cognitive development, and his epistemological view called "genetic epistemology." His work supported an approach to human psychological development that understood development as a constructive process, emphasized the importance of mental organization and adaptation, and viewed knowledge on the basis of its origins (Bjorklund, 1997). Moreover, Piaget's approach to the study of psychological development differs from other approaches because of his emphasis on stages of development, the role of emotions in how children understand the world, and the implications of his work for learning theories.

[M1]Like Freud, Piaget shifted the emphasis of his work from the science of the body to the science of the mind. Born in Switzerland, he initially trained as a biologist (Dembo, 1994) before transitioning to psychology. Piaget saw a connection between socialization (how individuals learn to become functioning members of society) and cognitive development. Piaget was interested in exploring what people knew and how they used their knowledge to understand and operate in the world. To this end, he spent sixty years studying how children learn. His overall perspective was that the thought process was essential in the human development process and that children learn to think about themselves and their environment in unique ways at each of four distinct stages of development (Piaget, 1929). Each stage is accomplished when the child acquires new skills. In developing these stages, Piaget was able to map the development or maturation of a child's mind from a rudimentary level to the level at which abstract thinking can occur.

Piaget spent a lot of his time playing and talking with children, including his own. His preferred method of study was to observe children and maintain flexibility in asking them different types of questions. He was especially interested in wrong answers to his questions and firmly believed that one could learn about the thought process by studying their errors.

Cognitive Assumptions

During the 1920s, Piaget began observing children and developing his theory of development, which proposed that children pass through a series of distinct stages of cognitive development. His theory acknowledged that children could pass through the stages at different rates but maintained that all children went through the stages in the same order. Some of the key assumptions underpinning Piaget's theory are the idea that people are active learners who possess internal impulses and display specific patterns of development, that people have the ability to construct their own world and sense of reality, and that people are born with intelligence and that this intelligence is capable of adapting to whatever environments people find themselves in.

These assumptions all underlie Piaget's theory of cognitive constructivism (Siegler & Ellis, 1996). This theory holds that children learn by actively constructing knowledge, rather than by passively receiving it. As they take in new experiences, children build and expand upon their mental constructs, or the patterns in which they organize knowledge. Constructivists call these constructs schemas.

Schemas

According to Piaget (Rumelhart, 1980), two processes affect these schemas: adaptation and equilibrium.

Adaptation

Adaptation occurs when a person adjusts his or her mental constructs (or "schemes") or creates new ones in order to understand new information. Within this concept, two sub-processes, assimilation and accommodation, work together. When a child assimilates, he or she incorporates new information into an existing mental scheme. When a child accommodates, he or she creates a new mental scheme or changes an existing one to understand new information. For example, if a child visiting a...

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