With regard to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, answer ONE of the following questions
6.1 Evaluate the validity of Piaget’s description of the sensorimotor stage of cognitive development on the basis of recent research evidence (20)
6.2 Discuss recent research on pre-operational thought and their implications for the accuracy of Piaget’s description of the pre-operational stage. (20)
6.3 Discuss recent research on concrete and formal operational thought and their implications for the accuracy of Piaget’s description of these stages. Also pay attention to general criticisms regarding Piaget’s theory. (20)
· According to Piaget’s cognitive-developmental theory, children actively construct knowledge as they manipulate and explore their world.
· Piaget believed that children move through four stages – sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operation.
· Piaget’s stage sequence has three important characteristics:
§ The stages provide a general theory of development, in which all aspects of cognition change in an integrated fashion, following a similar course
§ The stages are invariant; they always occur in a fixed order, and no stage can be skipped
§ The stages are universal; they are assumed to characterize children everywhere.
· Piaget regarded the order of development as rooted in the biology of our species – the human brain develops.
· He emphasized that individual differences in genetic and environmental factors affect the speed with which children move through the stages.
· Language development:
§ Piaget did not believe that language plays a major role in children’s cognitive development.
§ He felt that sensorimotor activity leads to internal images of experience, which children label with words.
§ Piaget underestimated the power of language to spur children’s cognition.
§ Toddlers’ expanding vocabularies enhance their conceptual skills.
§ Research inspired by Bygotsky’s theory, confirms that language is a powerful source of cognitive development, not just an indicator of it.
· Make-believe play:
§ Piaget’s view of make-believe as mere practice of representational schemes is too limited.
§ Play not only reflects but also contributes to children’s cognitive and social skills.
§ During socio-dramatic play, preschoolers’ interactions
· Last longer
· Show more involvement,
· Draw larger numbers of children into activities
· Are more cooperative.
§ Cultural variations occur in drawings
§ In cultures with rich artistic traditions, children’s drawings reflect the conventions of their culture and are more elaborate.
§ In cultures with little interest in are, even older children and adolescents produce simple forms.
· Symbol-real world relations
§ To make believe and draw – and to understand other forms of representation, such as photographs, models, and maps – preschoolers must realize that each symbol corresponds to a specific state of affairs in every day life.
§ Younger children have trouble understanding dual representation – viewing a symbolic object as both an object as well as a symbol.
Follow up research on Preoperational thought:
· Over the past 3 decades, researchers have challenged Piaget’s account of a cognitively deficient preschooler.
· Many Piagetian problems contain unfamiliar elements or too many pieces of information for young children to handle at once.
· As a result, preschoolers’ responses often do not reflect their true abilities.
· Piaget also missed many naturally occurring instances of effective reasoning by preschoolers.
· Some examples are:
· Can children understand another’s point of view if looking at an object from another angle? When researchers change the nature of Piaget’s three-mountains problem to include familiar object and use methods other than picture selection, 4-year-olds show clear awareness of others’ vantage points.
· Nonegocentric response appear in young children’s conversations:
§ Preschoolers adapt their speech to fit the needs of their listeners
– use shorter simpler expressions when talking to 2-year-olds.
- adjust their descriptions, taking account of context – judge a 4-cm shoe as small in relation to self, but big for a 15 cm doll.
· Even toddlers have some appreciation of others’ perspectives.
- in deferred imitation, they have begun to infer others’ intention/
§ Animistic and magical thinking
· Piaget overestimated preschoolers’ animistic beliefs – he asked children about objects they had no direct experience of – sun, moon, stars.
- Even infants can distinguish among living and nonliving things – animate,
- Preschoolers’ responses result from incomplete knowledge about objects, not from
a belief that inanimate objects are alive.
· The same is true for fantastic beliefs.
- although 3 and 4-year-olds believe in the supernatural powers of fairies, etc, they
deny that magic can later their everyday experiences.
- responses given by preschoolers indicate notions of magic are flexible and appropriate.
· As familiarity with physical events and principles increases, magical beliefs decline.
· How quickly children give up certain fantastic ideas varies with religion and culture.
§ Illogical thought
· Many studies have reexamined the illogical characteristics that Piaget saw in the preoperational stage.
· Results show that when preschoolers are given tasks that are simplified and made relevant to their everyday lives, they do better than Piaget might have expected.
· E.g. when a conservation-of-number task is scaled down to include only 3 items, 3-year-olds perform well.
- most 3-5-year-olds know that substance is conserved (dissolve sugar in water).
· Preschoolers’ are able to reason about transformations and can engage in impressive reasoning by analogy about physical changes.
· In familiar contexts, preschoolers are able to overcome appearances and think logically.
· Preschoolers have a remarkable understanding of diverse cause-and-effect relationships. – insides of animals differ from that of machines and are responsible for cause-effect sequences (willing oneself to move)
· 3 and 4-year-olds use logical, causal expressions, such as if-then and because with the same degree of accuracy as adults.
· Illogical reasoning seems to occur only when they grapple with unfamiliar topics, too much information, or contradictory facts.
· Piaget’s assumption that young children’s thinking is wholly governed by the way things appear.
· However, although preschoolers have difficulty with Piagetian class inclusion tasks, their everyday knowledge is organized into categories at an early age.
· Over the preschool years, children’s global categories differentiate.
· Younger children form may basic-level categories – chairs, tables, beds.
· By the 3rd and 4th year, children move back and forth between basic-level and superordinate categories – furniture.
· Preschoolers’ rapidly expanding vocabularies and general knowledge support their impressive skill at categorizing.
· Preschoolers category systems are not as complex as those of older children.
· Their capacity to classify on the basis on nonobvious properties in a hierarchical fashion is present in early childhood
§ Appearance versus reality
· Recent research shows that preschoolers begin to appreciate the appearance-reality distinction sometime during the 3rd year.
· Preschoolers show remarkably advanced reasoning when presented with familiar situations and simplified problems.
· John Flavell and his colleagues evaluated appearance-reality cognition and found that not until age 6 or 7 did children do well on these tasks.
· It is not entirely due to difficulty in distinguishing appearance from reality, as Piaget suggested. Rather they have trouble with the language of these tasks.
· When permitted to solve problems nonverbally, 3-year-olds perform well.
Evaluation of the preoperational stage.
· The evidence as a whole indicates that Piaget was partly wrong and partly right about young children’s cognitive capacities.
· When given simplified tasks based on familiar experiences, preschoolers do show the beginnings of logical thinking.
· That preschoolers have some logical understanding suggests that they acquire operational reasoning gradually.
· Over time, children rely on increasingly effective mental approaches to solving problems.
· Evidence that logical operations develop gradually poses yet another challenge to Piaget’s
stage concept, which assumes abrupt change toward logical reasoning around 6 or 7.
· Research shows that they are considerably more capable than Piaget assumed.