Sunday, January 12, 2020

Cognitive Development May Progress Gradually or Through a Series of Stages Essay

Cognitive development can be defined as the growth of our knowledge in understanding the world around us. This growth can be developed gradually, in other words, it is seen as a continuous process by collecting more information. Another way of developing cognitively is through a series of stages which involves some sort of revolution from one period to another in one’s lifetime. Jean Piaget, a cognitive developmentalist believed that humans go through a series of stages in life in order to reach their full cognitive ability. In this essay, we would briefly talk about Piaget’s Stage Theory and its criticisms. Piaget divided his theory into four different stages of development. The first one is known as the sensorimotor stage which is applied to infants for approximately the first two years of their lives. At this stage, infants discover the world mainly by their senses and actions. One of the main concepts Piaget penned is object permanence. This is the knowledge of the existence of objects even when we cannot directly sense it. Piaget suggested that babies lack this concept through his study; A not B task. In this study, the experimenter hides a toy under Box A then the baby would search for it under Box A. This procedure was repeated and eventually in front of the baby, the experimenter hid the toy under Box B. The baby searched for it under Box A instead of B even though they saw the experimenter hid it under Box B. Therefore, this study shows that the baby lacked the concept of object permanence. They are known to be in a state of solipsism, also known as the failure to differentiate between themselves and the surroundings. Based on observation conducted on his own children (1952), Piaget divided this stage into six different sub stages. However, Piaget’s claims on object permanence have been criticized. Baillargeon et al. (1985) found in their research that infants as young as three-and-a-half months have developed the ability of object permanence. This was backed up by Bower & Wishart (1972) whereby they discovered that even after the lights were switched off, the babies continued to search for the object shown. Hence, they do possess the ability of object permanence. The second stage is the preoperational stage which occurs when the child is aged 2 to 7. On this stage, the child solves problems by using symbols and develops the skill for languages. According to Piaget, the child is egocentric which means he sees the world from his standpoint but not others. The solution to this is to apply operational intelligence. The process of solving problems by using logic. Another concept which Piaget is concerned with is conservation. It is the understanding that any quantity remains the same even if physical changes is made to the objects holding the medium. In addition to these concepts, centration, also defined as the focus on a single aspect of a problem at a time. Piaget states that at this stage, the child fails to decenter. Conversely, Borke and Hughes (1975) found contradicting evidence against Piaget’s on his study of the three mountains task. They used the same elements of the task and discovered that children had no problem with identifying the perspectives of the others when the task is shown in a meaningful context. Hence, from the result obtained, Hughes found that the children did not display any characteristics of being egocentric. Furthermore, Gelman (1979) found in his study that four year olds altered their explanations of things to get their message across clearer to a blindfolded listener. If Piaget’s concept of egocentrism was correct then, this shouldn’t have happened. In addition, Flavell suggested an alternative to this issue by coining the Level 1 and Level 2 perspective-taking abilities. In Level 1, one thinks about viewing objects but not the different perspectives that can be seen of the objects while in Level 2, one is able to imagine the views of the objects from different angles. Flavell concluded that it is not compulsory that children think others share the same perspective as themselves but they do struggle to imagine what others can see. Therefore, this shows that Piaget’s claim on egocentrism could be correct or wrong. Moreover, in Donaldson’s Children’s Minds (1978), she argued that children misunderstood the questions which Piaget asked while conducting the studies. This was the reason why Piaget obtained the results in his studies involving the concept of conservation especially. Donaldson stated that Piaget’s tasks had no meaningful context for the children to understand, hence they answered what they thought the experimenter expected of them. This claim was supported by Rose & Blank (1974) where they found children often succeeded in the conservation task. Further research was done by Samuel & Bryant (1978) who used conservation of number, liquid quantity and substance and obtained similar conclusion with Rose & Blank’s. Donaldson also stated that children were unintentionally forced to produce the wrong answer against their own logical judgment. One of the explanations is that the same question was asked repeatedly before and after transformations presented to them and this in turn caused the children to believe that their original answer was wrong. Thus, the idea of children assuming the fact that reality changes according to appearance could be incorrect. In addition, Piaget may have underestimated a child’s cognitive ability because based on Mitchell & Robinson’s (1992) study; they demonstrated that children from the age of 4 could locate the correct answer to a solution by canceling out the alternatives. This process is also known as inference by elimination. The children were presented with a set of cartoon characters, three of which were well-known. They were asked to identify a superhero which was unknown. The researchers discovered that majority of the children selected the unknown character without doubt. Another example of a child’s ability is their capability with syllogisms which consists of logical problems accompanied by a general rule that enables people to create a statement. Dias and Harris (1990) stated a general rule that all fish live in trees and Tiddles is a fish, then it is logical to assume that Tiddles live in trees. After presenting this to the children, they insisted that Tiddles lives in the water instead. However, after the experimenters presented them with another rule, they were ready to use the rule to make inferences. Therefore, these evidences show that Piaget may have underestimated the abilities of younger children. Subsequently is the stage of concrete operation which happens to children around the age of 7 to 12. Now the child is able to solve their problems in a logical manner but the problem has to be either real or concrete. The final stage; formal operations which takes place when the child turns 12 and continue into their adulthood. In this stage, one would be able to solve problems systematically and logically even if the problem is a hypothetical situation. Wason and Johnson-Laird showed that most intelligent adults do not fulfill Piaget’s ideal cognitively developed person through selection task. This claim is proved in Cheng and Holyoak’s (1985) study where the results strongly show that majority of the participants does not display the reasoning of an adult in the stage of formal operations. In other words, this experiment is a clear indication that the formal operations stage does not exist. One of the critics of Piaget’s Stage Theory in general is John Flavell (1982) who claimed that Piaget did not define the cognitive processes clearly. Furthermore, Braine and Rumain (1983) who conducted an analysis on the contents and the structure of the theory found that Piaget’s theory could be flawed. These are only the few critics of Piaget’s Stage Theory. Thus, the theory is constantly being questioned due to its impact in the field of cognitive psychology. After stating the basic facts of the theory as well as giving some examples of the critics of Piaget’s concepts and ideas, we are now able to get an overview of the debate. Overall, there are evidences which propose some of the concepts to be reviewed again and maybe even rejected. However, from the researches conducted on Piaget’s theory as well as the impact of it, alternative theories were penned down. For example, Vygotsky’s theory which takes on a more social based view of describing the cognitive development. In conclusion, Piaget’s theory have been applied in various institutions especially education but it is also being criticized by many in the field, therefore, it is only fair to conclude that Piaget’s theory may need to be modified in order to create a more accurate theory to explain the way we understand the world.