Developmental Psychology Essay
Cognitive development involves developing concepts of thought, problem solving and memory (Green. 2002). Jean Piaget (1896-1980) and Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) were both psychologists, which focused on cognitive development and the way in which children’s thought and reasoning developed as they matured. This assignment shall begin by describing and evaluating the theories put forward by Piaget and Vygotsky referring to research evidence and providing a conclusion.
Piaget (1896-1980) was one of the most influential researchers in the area of developmental psychology during the 20th century and a as biologist was interested in the way in which organisms adapt to their environment this was described by Piaget as intelligence. He viewed behaviour or the adaptation to the environment as being controlled through mental organisations known as schemes that the individual uses in order to represent the world. Piaget suggested that adaptation is driven by a biological drive to obtain balance between schemes and the environment, which is known as equilibrium (Huitt. 2003).
Within Piaget’s research and writing’s on cognitive development he suggested that children’s thoughts are not only less sophisticated than adults but they are also qualitatively different and this is due to less knowledge (Jarvis. 2000). It was considered by Piaget that the interaction between the child and their environment was the main factor of influence on their cognitive development. Piaget’s view of children is that they are scientists and that they should be left to explore their surroundings giving them the opportunity to interpret the world in their own way. The active involvement in their own learning is described as a series of schemas and that these schemas would change and develop through each stage through the process of assimilation or accommodation (Green. 2002).
Piaget’s theory is based on stages of development in which he believed that all children develop at the same age. There are four stages to his development theory, which are sensorimotor (0-2 years) and the view that infants are developing their first schemas (Meggitt. 2000). Object permanence is the main focus within this stage and the assumption by Piaget that children aged five or six months old could not understand that an object, which was covered, still exists. An experiment showed that a child of five or six months showed no interest once the toy was covered whereas a ten month old would reach out for the toy and seem to become agitated. Piaget’s interpretation of this was that the child of ten months had reached object permanence and now has a schema for the object.
In contrast to this Tom Bower and Jennifer Wishart (1972) argued that objects do still exist in baby’s minds although they have been covered. To support their theory an experiment was undertaken using an infrared camera. An object was offered to the baby and as they reached out to grab it the lights were switched off. The results showed that the baby was still attempting to reach for the toy although they were unable to see it and so an explanation for Piaget’s theory was that by covering the object the baby was distracted and not necessarily that they had forgotten about it.
The second stage is pre-operational stage (2-7 years). Egocentric thinking predominates the child (Huitt. 2003) within this stage and they do not have the ability to understand things from another person’s viewpoint according to Piaget. In order for this to be confirmed he set up an experiment. Three mountains were set in front of the child and a doll was placed in different seats around the table. Photographs, which had been taken, were then shown to the child and they were asked to point to the picture that the doll would see.
As Piaget’s findings showed that most four or five year olds pointed to photographs which represented their view of the mountains he concluded that they were egocentric. Most children aged seven that was asked to do the same task correctly identified the photograph strengthening Piaget’s theory. Although it was then argued by Martin Hughes (1975) that the task was much too complicated for the child and therefore devised his own experiment, which would contradict Piaget’s findings.
His experiment involved a model with two intersecting walls, two policeman figures and a figure of a boy. After having a trial using one police figure and the boy to ensure the child understood the task Hughes began his experiment. It was found that most children could successfully take account of two different viewpoints. Therefore it could be said that Piaget’s experiment may have been too difficult for the child to understand rather than the child being egocentric.
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