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Did Piaget under estimate what children understood about the physical world?

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Sarah-Elizabeth Stanton 00031048201G Module 101 Did Piaget under estimate what children understood about the physical world? This is an essay into Piaget and how he under estimated what children understood about the physical world. It will look at studies, which illustrate the importance of context and social factors on children's cognitive development. There have been many studies in to the physical development, communication and language skills of children. Children's perception of the physical world around them, however, had been largely ignored until the late 19th century. Jean Piaget asked the question "How does a child's knowledge of the world develop? (Bee, 2000) The answers to this question played an important part in revolutionising child studies and producing the first complete and detailed analysis of cognition in children. The theory is based on a child's development of cognitive structure. Cognitive structures are mental representations or rules that aid the child with thinking, problem solving and in dealing with the world around them in general. These mental representations can apply to both environmental events and their relationship with other constructs. Piaget's theory was both a constructionalist and an evolutionary theory. ...read more.


However, Piaget's theory of object permanence may not be completely accurate. Bower (cited in Bee) conducted a study using 3 - 4 month old babies, in which a favourite toy was hidden behind a large black screen. When the screen was eventually removed it was found that the babies showed surprise in the fact that the toy was still there. This suggests that object permanence may not be as well developed at this stage as was thought by Piaget. Baillargeon (1987) did another study that suggests that Piaget did under estimate children's understanding of the physical world. Baillargeon used 3,4 and 5-month-old children to investigate their perception of object permanence. Infants were habitulised to a rotating drawbridge that either fully closed or went half way. They were then either shown the same rotating drawbridge that either appeared to pass through a clown's head or carried on rotating as normal. Findings of this study concluded that a child will spend longer looking at an impossible and unfamiliar event than they do looking at a possible and familiar event. This shows that babies have the ability to recognise an impossible event from a very young age. ...read more.


Hughes found that the majority of children showed no egocentrism and were able to answer correctly. This again contradicts Piaget's work as he believed that egocentrism did not decline until later on in the stage. The fourth and final stage of Piaget's theory is the formal operations stage. The child will normally enter this stage at 11 and have all the basic views of an adult. Children in this stage have the ability to think logically and reason about hypothetical events or objects as opposed to the symbolic way that was used in earlier stages. However not all children are able to progress to this stage and may remain in the concrete operations stage for the rest of their lives. So in conclusion Piaget did under estimate children's understanding of the physical world. The main problem with the theory was that Piaget constantly took the false negative view and believed that children had under developed cognitive skills, when in fact they may have just been confused by the experiment. Another reason why he may have under estimated the children is the lack of continuity in his questioning. However he did create the first systematic study into the cognitive development of children. Piaget's theory has encouraged many other psychologists into further studies of development. 5 1 ...read more.

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