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How Does Our Thinking Change With Age?

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1 How Does Our Thinking Change With Age?
Chapter 6- Theories of Cognitive Development

2 MODULE OBJECTIVES: How does thinking change as children develop?
What are Piaget’s 4 stages Cognitive Development? What is Vygotsky’s Theory of Cognitive Development?

3 Wouldn’t you love to know what he’s thinking?

4 It was once accepted that because babies cannot speak, then they must not think.
Jean Piaget questioned this concept and examined the development of thought in children, beginning in infancy

5 How does thought develop?
Piaget’s theory focuses on how people think rather than what they think. Piaget believed that children play an active role in their cognitive development. Piaget’s theories emphasized biology, which allow them to be applied to any culture

6 Piaget’s Three Basic Assumptions
Children’s constructive processes are generating hypotheses, performing experiments, and drawing conclusions The child as a scientist Children lean many important lessons on their own, rather than depending on instruction from adults or older children Children are intrinsically motivated to learn and do not need rewards from adults to do so

7 Piagetian Approach Piaget proposed a “stage approach” to development and he claimed that all children pass through a series of four universal stages in a fixed order from birth through adolescence Sensorimotor (birth to 2 years) Preoperational (2 to 7 years) Concrete operational (7 to 12 years) Formal operational (12 years and beyond) Cognitive development as discontinuous Movement from one stage to the next occurred when a child reaches an appropriate level of physical maturation and is exposed to relevant types of experience Without such experience, children are assumed to be incapable of reaching their cognitive potential It is critical to consider the changes in the quality of children’s knowledge and understanding


9 How do we make sense of the world?
Piaget believed that infants spend a LOT of time trying to make sense of the world. A schema (theory) is a mental structure, a way of organizing and categorizing thoughts and experiences. Schemas allow children to make comparable generalizations.

10 Schema Piaget believed that children develop and modify schema or theory by two processes: Assimilation Accommodation

11 Assimilation incorporates new experiences into existing mental structures and behaviors
Example: a baby who is familiar with grasping will soon discover that the grasping works for toys as well as blocks, balls, and other small objects. Assimilation lays the foundation for accomodation

12 Wait…I changed my mind! Accommodation occurs when a child’s theories are modified based on an experience Example- The baby with a theory of dogs is surprised the first time she sees a cat- it resembles a dog, but meows instead of barks and rubs up against her rather thank licking The baby must REVISE her previous theory to include this new kind of animal

13 John has a dog…his schemata for dog is an animal with four legs and a tail. John’s theory of dogs also includes the concept that dogs are friendly and like to lick people’s faces. One day John is bitten by a neighbor’s dog- Think on your own….how could his theory change to accommodate this new info?

14 Why is this process important?
As adaptation continues, the child organizes his/her schemata into more complex mental representations, linking one schema with another.

15 Assimilation and accommodation are usually in balance (equilibrium), but periodically the balance is upset which results in disequilibrium Children find that their theories are not adequate because they spend so much more time accommodating than assimilating. Children restore equilibrium by replacing obsolete theories with new more advanced theory.


17 Sensorimotor thinking involves adapting to the environment, understanding objects, and becoming able to use symbols. This form of thought begins with the infant experiencing the world through their reflexes

18 Sensorimotor Intelligence
The intelligence of infants during the first period of cognitive development when babies think by using their senses and motor skills Piaget proposed that these rapidly changing perceptual and motor skills in this first 2 years of life form the Sensorimotor Stage Piaget believed that in this stage, the infant progresses from simple reflex actions to symbolic processing

19 Simple Reflexes During the first month of life, the various reflexes that determine the infant’s interactions with the world are at the center of its cognitive life As infant uses his/her reflexes – the reflexes become more coordinated Infants begin to modify their reflexes to make them more adaptive and reflexes become modified by experience Example – thumb sucking As infant uses his/her reflexes – the reflexes become more coordinated Infants begin to modify their reflexes to make them more adaptive

20 For example, an infant might combine grasping an object with sucking on it, or staring at something with touch

21 This 2 year period of rapid change is divided into 6 sub-stages
Stages 1 and 2: -Primary circular reactions Stages 3 and 4: -Secondary circular reactions Stage 5 and 6 -Tertiary circular reactions

22 Stages 1 and 2 Primary circular reactions
Stage 1- (Birth to 1 month) The focus in this stage is learning to interact with their own body Everything that occurs in this stage is reflexive Sucking, grasping, staring Stage 2- (1-4 months) Infants accidentally produce a pleasing event and then try to recreate it. Assimilation and coordination of reflexes Example: Grabbing a bottle to suck it or thumb sucking

23 Stages 3 and 4: Secondary circular reactions
Secondary Circular Reactions are novel actions that are repeated. These actions represent the infant’s attempt to learn about objects in their environment. Stage 3 occurs during 4-8 months in age infants switch from interacting with their own body to interacting with an object or a person. The infant is responsive to other people and to toys and other objects that can be manipulated

24 Infants begin to interact with people and objects to produce exciting experiences
For example, realizing that a rattle makes noise-they shake their arms and laugh whenever someone puts a rattle in their hand

25 Stages 3 and 4: Secondary circular reactions
Stage 4 (8 months-1yr) Babies think about a goal and understand how to reach it Much more sophisticated way of thinking that occurs, infants become more purposeful in responding to people.

26 Example: 10 month-old girl who enjoys baths- may crawl into the bath tub with a bar of soap and remove all her clothes to communicate to Mom that she wants a bath.

27 Why is peek-a-boo fun for babies?
Why ISN’T it fun for adults? The game loses its excitement once we know the person hiding their face has not really disappeared. How do you know an object still exists when you can’t see it? This is a cognitive milestone that develops in the sensorimotor stage called Object Permanence

28 Out of Sight, Out of Mind…
Object Permanence allows infants to now recognize that objects continue to exist even when they are out of sight. -This usually develops around 8 months Think on your own… five month-old Jack is playing with your car keys, but now you want to leave. You distract the infant and take your keys. How does the infant react?

29 The infant responds by doing NOTHING
The infant responds by doing NOTHING. The infant will not even look for the keys. They will act as though the keys do not even exist anymore- because they DO NOT have object permanence

30 For this 5-month-old, “out of sight” is literally out of mind
For this 5-month-old, “out of sight” is literally out of mind. The infant looks at the toy monkey (top), but when his view of the monkey is blocked (bottom), he does not search for it. Watching an infant’s reaction to when an interesting object disappears: If the infant shoes no reaction – it is assumed they believe that the object no longer exists If infants are surprised by the disappearance and start searching for the object, it is assumed that they believe that the object still exists – they have object permanence

31 Click on the baby to view a video on object permanence

32 Stage 5 and 6 Tertiary circular reactions
Stage 5 (12-18 months) is defined by “active experimentation” which is a way to learn about the world (when babies get into everything) Infants explore a wide range of activities. They take on the role of the “Little scientist”- who experiments in order to see What else can I do with this thing? Scientific method of trial and error

33 Tertiary circular reactions
Stage 6 –(18-24 months) Rather than just repeated enjoyable activities as in substage 4, infants appear to carry out miniature experiments to observe the consequences Example: A child will drop a toy repeatedly, varying the position from which he drops it, carefully observing each time to see where it falls Toddlers begin to anticipate and solve simple problems by using mental combinations

34 They try out various actions mentally before performing them and think about the consequences of their actions They hesitating before yanking a cat’s tail or dropping an egg on the floor


36 Infants also have the ability to use symbols and engage in pretend play


38 Preoperational Period (2-7years)
The period in which children become able to represent their experiences in language, mental imagery, and symbolic thought Preschool children gradually become proficient at using common symbols – such as words, gestures, graphs, maps, and models The development of egocentrism and centration are milestones in this period Preschool children gradually become proficient at using common symbols – such as words, gestures, graphs, maps, and models

39 Development of Symbolic Representation
The ability to use scale models develops early and by age 3 it has developed. If young children watch an adult hide a toy in a full size room, then try to find the toy in a scale-model of the room that contains the same features as the full-size room  3-year-olds can find the toy but 2.5-year-olds cannot. By 3 years: symbolic representation has developed If we manipulate the above situation (using the shrinking machine): Make the 2.5-year-olds think that we actually shrunk the room --- it makes the model not appear as a model. The children think that the model is the real room just smaller. Now, they can find the toy because they aren’t required to use the model as a symbol.

40 Me, Me, Me…. A key element in the preoperational stage is egocentrism, which is the inability to perceive a situation from another’s point of view. Children in this stage, cannot put themselves in another person’s position and are unable to understand that the world does not exist to meet their needs. Over the course of the preoperational period, egocentric speech becomes less common.

41 Example of Egocentrism
Three-year-old Jamila loves talking to Grandma Powell on the telephone. When Grandma Powell asks a question, Jamila often replies by nodding her head. Jamila’s dad has explained that Grandma Powell can’t see her nodding, that she needs to say “yes” or “no.” But, no luck. Jamila invariably returns to head-nodding. Jamila assumes that because she is aware that her head is moving up and down (or side to side) that her grandmother must be aware of it too. Click on picture to watch egocentrism video (also included in the text DVD)

42 Centration Preoperational children have the tendency to narrowly focus on a single, perceptually striking feature of an object or event. The psychological equivalent of tunnel vision For example, a three-year old may choose a nickel over the dime because the nickel is bigger

43 Concrete Operational Stage
A milestone of this stage is understanding Conservation This ability allows children to recognize that objects can be transformed visually or physically, yet still be the same in number, weight, substance, or volume Click on picture to view a video on conservation (available on text DVD)

44 Conservation Tasks Most children below age 7 say that the taller liquid column has more liquid; the longer clay has more clay, the longer row has more objects Children 7 and older correctly say the objects remain equal even after the manipulation. In the preoperational child, they focus on a single perceptually salient dimension (either height or weight – not both). They focus on a static state – the height of the liquid or the length of the clay. They ignore the transformation

45 Appearance as Reality Preoperational children cannot distinguish between appearance and reality. Preschool children believe an object’s appearance tells what the object is really like. They think if people look happy, they are really happy. Older children and adults know that the boys looks happy but that the boy is really angry Older children and adults know that the milk looks brown but that the milk is really white Preoperational children cannot distinguish between appearance and reality. They think if people look happy, they are really happy. Seven-year-olds are more likely to have progressed to operational thinking and respond more accurately.

46 At the latter end of the stage, Decentration begins
At the latter end of the stage, Decentration begins. This is a change from a self-oriented view to recognizing the view of others.

47 Test Your Knowledge A child in this stage saw a classmate crying and someone asked, “why is Marcus crying?” What is the child displaying? The child responds by saying, “I don’t know…I’m OK.” With the same scenario, a child responds, “Marcus is sad”

48 Did You Get It? A child in this stage saw a classmate crying and someone asked, “why is Marcus crying?” What is the child displaying? The child responds by saying, “I don’t know…I’m OK.” With the same scenario, a child responds, “Marcus is sad” Egocentrism Decentration


50 Concrete Operational Period
The period in which children become able to reason logically about concrete objects and events. They become more adultlike and less childlike Children first use mental operations to solve and to reason Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are familiar arithmetic operations that concrete operational children use Mental operations give concrete operational thinking a rule-oriented, logical flavor that is missing in preoperational thought. What is it is always 6 Children at this age can do the reverse = 10 and 10 – 6 = 4 Concrete operational thinkers understand that if the transformation were reversed, the objects would be identical. No longer egocentric. They no longer confuse appearances with reality. They realize that many problems have different facets (can correctly solve conservation problems). The thinking of a concrete operational child is limited to the here and now, to what is tangible and real. They cannot think abstractly or hypothetically.

51 Classifying Objects, Ideas and People
Children can also classify or divide things into different sets or subsets and consider their interrelationships. Classification is the process of organizing things into groups according to some property they have in common Children that can categorize can analyze problems, derive correct solutions and ask follow-up questions Concrete operations allow children to order objects in terms of more than one dimension. Example: size, shape, volume

52 Reversibility The concrete operational child can operate an action, and then go back to the original condition. 3 + 2 = 5 and 5 – 2 = 3 Reciprocity is another logical principle in which two things may change in opposite ways, in order to balance each other out. 4x6 is the same as 2 x 12 This is relevant to the development of mathematical processes


54 Formal Operational Stage 12+
In this stage, the individual can think hypothetically, consider future possibilities, and use deductive logic Children understand that reality is not the only possibility Capable of deductive reasoning

55 Do adolescents think like adults yet?
Teenagers have more skillful selective attention, expanded memory, and ability to understand and learn more complex topics The development of hypothetical thought emerges during this period. This type of thought involves reasoning about imagined possibilities. Teenagers can ignore the “real” and think about what is possible. This is evidence of abstract thought.

56 More complex reasoning
During adolescence, teens are more able to think hypothetically, which allows for deductive reasoning. Deductive reason is the ability to draw appropriate conclusions from facts. Ex: “If it’s a duck, it will quack and waddle.” In other words, from specific proven laws or rules we can deduce certain truths. This is often displayed in principles of science and math. Click on the picture to view a video on deductive logic (also available on text DVD)

57 The return of egocentrism!
We know adolescents can display very logical thought, but are they characterized by the use of this logic? NO…most teens who reach formal operational thought have a logic detachment. They are worried about how others see them, they are constantly consumed with conflicting feelings. Analyzing private thoughts and feelings reflect the enhanced capacity for self-centeredness, which characterizes this period of life.

58 What would you do? Suppose that you were given a third eye and that you could choose to place this eye anywhere on your body. Where would you put the extra eye and why would you put it there?

59 What does your thinking say about you?
Concrete Operational Child (9-year-old) All of these children placed their third eye on the forehead between their two natural eyes Formal Operational Child (12-year-old) These children gave a wide variety of answers with imaginative rationales Some answered palm of the hand or inside the mouth and explained why. Why on the palm: So he could see around corners or to see what kind of cookie he was pulling out of the cookie jar Why inside the mouth: So he could see what he was eating When asking the younger children: Many thought the question was silly or uninteresting They answered based on their concrete experiences – eyes are found somewhere around the middle of the face in all people. The explanations for placing the eyes in between the two already existing eyes are unimaginative

60 Think and review on your own…
Piaget provided psychology with very important information on child development. But what were some problems with his theory? Review and analyze the weaknesses of Piaget’s theory.

61 Modern Theories of Cognitive Development
The Sociocultural Perspective: Vygotsky’s Theory

62 Vygotsky’s Approach In contrast to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, Vygotsky believed that children are the products of their culture. Children are not boldly exploring alone, but rather are influenced by social interaction Vygotsky saw development as an apprenticeship in which children advance when they collaborate with others who are more skilled. Children are shaped by and are shaping their cultural contexts They are intertwined with other people who are eager to help them gain skills and understanding According to Vygotsky: Children rarely make much headway on the developmental path when they walk alone They progress when the walk hand in hand with an expert partner Vygotsky died at the age of 37 so he didn’t have the time to formulate a complete theory like Piaget did. Vygotksy’s theory has been incorporated into the theories of Barbara Rogoff, Michael Cole, and Michael Tomasello

63 A shared, mutual understanding among participants in an activity
Sociocultural theorists believe the social nature of cognitive development is captured in the concept of intersubjectivity A shared, mutual understanding among participants in an activity

64 Guided Participation A process in which more knowledgeable individuals organize situations in ways that allow less knowledgeable individuals to learn Often occurs in situations in which the explicit purpose is to achieve a practical goal – such as assembling a toy – but in which learning also occurs as by-product of the activity

65 Vygotsky’s ideas of so influential because they fill in the gaps of Piaget’s work
Vygotsky three most important contributions are the concepts: Zone of Proximal Development Scaffolding Private Speech

66 Zone of Proximal Development
The difference between the level of performance a child can achieve when working independently and the higher level of performance that is possible when working under the guidance of more skilled adults or peers. Range of tasks too difficult for children to master alone but which can be learned with the guidance and assistance of adults or more skilled children Range of tasks too difficult for children to master alone but which can be learned with the guidance and assistance of adults or more skilled children The lower limit: the level of problem solving reached by the child working independently The upper limit: the level of additional responsibility the child can accept with the assistance of an able instructor

67 Think on your own… How do you guide her?
Review the video clip from your text DVD! Think of a preschool child who is asked to clean her bedroom. She doesn’t know where to begin. Think on your own… How do you guide her?

68 By structuring the task for the child – “start by putting away your books, then your toys, then your clothes” – an adult can help the child accomplish what she cannot do by herself. Just as training wheels help children learn to ride a bike by allowing them to concentrate on other aspects of bicycling collaborators help children perform effectively by providing structure, hints, and reminders

69 Zone of Proximal Development
Potential Development Actual Development Developmental Gains Zone of Proximal Development According to Piaget, children should not be able to learn conservation – they cannot be taught Piagetian concepts ahead of schedule. Gelman has demonstrated that if you teach children two of the tasks, that they will correctly conserve on a third task (when they weren’t specifically taught anything about that task). Vygotsky believes that children make the cognitive journey with people which allows them to learn how to do something ahead of the schedule set by Piaget. Time

70 Scaffolding Scaffolding is giving help but not more than is needed – this promotes learning Providing instruction that matches the learner’s needs exactly – neither too much nor too little Early in learning a new task (when the child knows little), the teacher provides a lot of direct instruction When the child begins to catch on to the task, the teacher provides less instruction and only occasional reminders A temporary framework that supports children’s thinking at a higher level than children could manage on their own Scaffolding is giving help but not more than is needed – this promotes learning Changing the level of support: Over the course of teaching, a more skilled person adjusts the amount of guidance to fit the student’s current performance level Children do not learn readily when they are constantly told what to do OR when they are simply left to struggle with a problem unaided When teachers collaborate with children (allowing children to take on more and more of a task as they master different elements) they learn more effectively Dialogue is an important tool: A back-and-forth dialogue might take place between a teacher and a child when the teacher uses scaffolding to help a child understand a concept

71 Vygotsky and Language Children must use language to communicate with others before they can focus inward on their own thoughts Children must communicate externally and use language for a long period of time before transitioning from external to internal speech

72 Private Speech Speech that is not directed as others but instead guides the child’s own behavior At first, children’s behavior is regulated by speech from other people that is directed toward them When children first try to control their own behavior and thoughts, without others present, they instruct themselves by speaking aloud As children gain ever-greater skill, private speech becomes inner speech (thoughts) Usually occurs between ages 3 and 7 (inner speech) Private speech allows children to control their own behavior: Allows children to practice speech as well as plan activities Children use it more often on difficult tasks than on easy ones Children use it more often after a mistake than after a correct response When a task becomes second nature – children can act without verbalizing. When this occurs, children have internalized their egocentric speech into the form of inner speech --- which becomes their thoughts Children who use a lot of private speech are more socially competent than those who don’t, according to Vygotsky Private speech represents an early transition in becoming more socially communicative Piaget believed that self-talk represented immaturity.

73 Example… A child working on a puzzle says to herself (out loud), “Start with the edges, look for pieces with straight sides.”

74 Sociocultural context Strong emphasis Little emphasis
Vygotsky Piaget Sociocultural context Strong emphasis Little emphasis Stages No general stages of development proposed Strong emphasis on stages (sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, formal operational) Key processes Zone of proximal development, scaffolding, private speech, tools of the culture Assimilation, accommodation, circular reactions (primary, secondary, tertiary), hypothetical-deductive reasoning Role of language Major role, language plays important role in shaping thought Minimal role, cognition primarily directs language View of education Education plays a central role, helping children learn the tools of the culture Education merely refines the child’s cognitive skills that already have emerged

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