Piaget’s Developmental Psychology Essay
Piaget’s Developmental Psychology
Piaget (1896-1980) believed that there was a quantitative difference between the intelligence of adults, young children and older children. He believed adults have better knowledge of the world and because children do not use the same logic in there thinking. He believed that children’s logic changed as they developed through their four stages of life Piaget came to this conclusion after completing his cognitive development test. Unlike psychologist Siegler and Huges, Piaget is a theoretical psychologist and carried out many experiments to illustrate his theories.
These stages have been critisied by many psychologist including Hughes, Siegler, Rose, Blank. Sensorimotor Stage Piaget believed that a new born had basic biological motivations, and acquired knowledge by accommodation and assimilation, and once a child has acquired these schemas it would be at equilibration. It has been argued that Piaget underestimated the intelligence of a newborn. Piaget’s sample did not illustrate a wide variety of children therefore his experiment cannot be related to every child at that relevant age. His study was also only preformed on his own children therefore results could have been bias.
Similar experiments were devised by other psychologist giving different conclusions, indicating Piaget’s results were not always reliable. Piaget’s first stage stated that a baby (0-2) first explores the world using motor and reflex actions. For example a child reaches towards an object and after many attempts will be able to eventually grasp the object and then bring the object to its mouth and will continue to explore it uses the senses of taste and smell. A child is said to have completed this stage of development once they have obtained object permanence (a child understands that an object still exists even when it is not visible).
This theory was tested by giving a 5-6 months old child a toy to play with, the toy was covered with a cloth and the baby’s behavior observed. Results showed that a baby immediately lost interest as if the object never existed. However when tested with a 10 month old child it would continue to reach for the toy although it could not see it. Another explanation is that the child did not think the toy had seized to exist but was distracted by the movement of the cloth, which is why the child looks away and appears to have ‘forgot’ the toy.
Bower and Wishart (1972) argued that it does still exist in a babies mind even when it may not be visible. There experiment was done on a baby less than four months; the baby was offered a toy but as it reached for the toy the lights were switched off this showed that even when the lights were off the child continued to reach for the toy. It can be argued that the child was not reaching out for the toy but was just reaching due to the discomfort of the sudden darkness. This study could also go against the ethics as the child could have been experiencing fear from the sudden loss sight. Pre-operational Stage
At this stage a child develops symbolic thinking; another characteristic of this stage is egocentrism. Piaget devised a three mountain task to test this theory. A child was sat in front of a three mountains model, a doll was then placed at varies positions in the modeled mountains and pictures were presented, they were asked to pick the picture that represented what the doll could see. Four and five year olds selected the picture showing what they could see, this suggested that they thought the doll could see what they could identifying egocentrism. However most seven years old were able to identify the correct picture.
Due to Piaget’s selection of children it was very difficult to apply his findings to others, his own children were used throughout most of his experiment and any others were from well educated backgrounds. It can be argued that this experiment lacked ecological validity as the child could not relate to the situation they were presented with. Hughes devised a task to test egocentrism in a child but relating to an everyday situation, children as young as three and a half answered the question correctly, and 90% of children tested altogether were able to give the correct answer. Concrete operational stage
A child enters this stage when they understand the appearance of something may change although the item itself remains the same. Piaget tested this stage by setting out a row of counters in front of each child, than asking the child to make another row the same as the first one. Piaget would than spread out his row of counters and ask the child if there were still the same amount of counters. This experiment tested a child’s conservation of numbers. Most seven year olds were able to answer this question correctly concluding by the age of seven children are able to conserve numbers.
To test the conservation of liquid Piaget collected two identical glasses A + B and a taller thin container C and asked the child which container held more, he then transferred the liquid from A+B to C and asked the child again. When a child was able to identify that both containers held the same amount of liquid they had achieved the concrete operational stage. Many aspects of this test have been criticized, including the social context of the child’s understanding. Rose and Blank argued that when a child is asked the same question twice they assumed there first answer was incorrect and changed their answer.
When Rose and Blank replicated this experiment and only asked the question once most six years olds gave the correct answer. McGarriglr and Donaldson (1974) argued that as the adult changed the appearance children would assume this was significant so devised an experiment were the appearance of the items were changed accidently. Children tested were between four and six, results showed that more than half tested gave the correct answer. Confirming children conserve at a younger age than Piaget claimed. Formal Operational Stage
A child shows logical thinking but generally needs to be able to work through sequences with actual objects. Once a child can manipulate ideas in their head it has entered the formal operational stage. Piaget tested this by giving each child string and weights and told them to find out which factors affects a complete swing of the pendulum they could vary the weights, length of string and strength of push. Piaget found children who had entered the formal operational stage approached the task systematically testing one variable at a time.
Psychologist Robert Siegler (1979) tested children aged five and upwards, by using the balance beam test. Results showed that eventually the child would take into account the interaction between the weight and the disc but would not achieve this ability until they were between 13 and 17. This concluded that children’s cognitive development is based on acquiring and using rules in increasingly more complex situations instead of stages. Conclusion Piaget tested his children and well-educated professionals therefore making his findings ungeneralised and potentially bias.
Subsequent questions relating to the child’s individual answer may have led children to give the answer researchers were looking for. Piaget underestimated the ability of children’s social understanding. A child’s perception of an adult the importance of a familiar context and the meaning of a second question all affect a child’s performance. Weaknesses in Piaget experiment prevent children from showing what understood. Piaget overestimated the age at which children entered the formal operational stage (Siegler). As Piaget focused on individual children he failed to take social settings into account.
He failed to show that development is continuous and not in stages Evidence suggests that environmental factors, ethics and gender could alter a child’s development. Small samples and controllability of variables were not taken into account. Piagets had very little evidence to support his findings and believed that his finding could be applied to every child. Piaget’s focus on qualitative development has played an important role on education. Piaget opened the opportunities for others to learn and discover more on how children development.
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