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Did Piaget under-estimate what children understand about the physical world.

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Did Piaget under-estimate what children understand about the physical world. Jean Piaget was born in Neuch´┐Żtel, Switzerland, on August 9, 1896. Many psychologists consider him to be the most influential developmental psychologist of the twentieth century. He made detailed observations of children's activities, talked to children, listened to them talking to each other, and devised and presented many tests of children's thinking. It was Piaget who founded genetic epistemology, the study of the development of knowledge. Originally based on the observations he made of his own children, he concluded that younger children's intelligence is both qualitatively and quantitatively different to that of older children's. Piaget suspected that the way that we are able to form and deal with concepts changes as we move from childhood to adolescence. Piaget's theory of cognitive development focuses on the organisation of intelligence and how it changes as children grow, and he identified a number of distinct stages of intellectual development (sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operational and formal operational). He suggested that children progress through each stage in turn, in sequence. However, it has been argued that it is possible for children to reach later stages without progressing through earlier ones (Horn, 1976) an example of this is some children walk without ever crawling. ...read more.


Bower came to the conclusion that a baby does not understand that place and movement are linked until they are about five months old. Piaget described limitations to a child's thinking during the pre-operational stage (approximately two to seven years). He proposed that with the development of language, a child is now capable of symbolic thought, but their intellectual capabilities are still chiefly dominated by their perceptions, rather than theoretical grasp of situations and events. Piaget perceived children as egocentric because they are unable to see the world from anything but their own viewpoint. An illustration of this is a young boy telling you he has a brother, but persistently denying that his brother has a brother. There has been various attempts to disprove Piaget's assumption that children are egocentric, including Gelman (1979) who said that an entirely egocentric four year old child would not attempt to use simpler forms of speech when talking to a two year old child, yet this is what they do. Also, Marvin (1975) said that an egocentric child would be expected to buy a toy that they like for their mother's birthday, however, most four year old children choose presents that are appropriate for their mother. ...read more.


Also, Donaldson argued that children assume that something has changed because the experimenter, who the child sees as an "important" adult has rearranged it, this suggests that children are being led to think something, they do not necessarily believe to be so. Piaget made some very valuable contributions and presented some useful research, which despite criticism continues to attract much interest. Many researchers have used Piaget's theory and expanded it. Although it is becoming clear that Piaget did underestimate what children understand about the physical world, he made some very significant observations, which people continue to research and improve. If it wasn't for Piaget's original thoughts and assumptions, then it is possible that we may not have advanced as quickly as we have done. Although Piaget appears to have underestimated children's understanding, it would be wrong to say that there is evidence that his theory is wrong, he has provided a starting point for other researchers, and if he was still alive today, it is likely that he would have continued his research and made necessary alterations to his original ideas. It is becoming increasingly obvious that Piaget did miscalculate what children understand about the physical world. Many people have made efforts to enhance our knowledge of cognitive development based on Piaget's theory. ...read more.

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