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Discuss Piaget's theory of cognitive development (24 marks)

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´╗┐Megan O?Brien 13B 26th September 2012 Discuss Piaget?s theory of Cognitive Development (24 marks) Piaget believes that there were a number of mechanisms involved in cognitive development, with development due to a combination of maturation and experience. During development, the child develops mental structures known as schema. Schema can be either behaviour or cognitive, with cognitive schema helping children to solve problems and classify objects. Some schema are innate (e.g. sucking), whereas others develop through interaction with the environment children are born with very few schema, but these develop gradually through the processes of assimilation and accommodation, which together help the child adapt to his or her environment. Assimilation is the mechanism used when a child tries to understand new information in terms of existing schema. In some situations, a child must change an existing schema to understand new information. ...read more.


In stage 3, the concrete operational stage, the child develops the basics of logical operations such as conservation (e.g. several different sizes of juice on a table, children choose the glass that is the tallest because they perceive the taller glass as having more juice inside of it) and seriation (which refers to the ability to sort objects or situations according to any characteristic, such as size, color, shape, or type) although he or she cannot solve such problems when in abstract form. In the final stage, the formal operational stage, from age 11 onwards, the child has a better understanding of cause and effect of relationships, and is now able to develop their own theories about the world, which they can test in an organised way. They can also understand and apply abstract concepts. Piaget?s theory is based on studies of intelligent European children. ...read more.


This problem was easier when children were given a more realistic test (i.e. the policeman and the naughty boy, Hughes 1975). Children may also have displayed demand characteristics. Mc Garrigle and Donaldson (1974) found that when transformation in conservation tasks was accidental (using naughty teddy) children were more successful than when the transformation was deliberate. Limitations of theory include the fact that Piaget may have overestimated the ability to use abstract logic in the formal operational stage. Dasen (1994) found that only one third of adults reach this stage. There is little empirical support for the concept of equilibration; in fact some research has shown that children may learn better in situations of mild conflict (Inhelder et al 1974). Many psychologists see stage theories such as Piaget?s as being too rigid. Piaget introduced the idea of horizontal delagage, the fact that certain cognitive abilities are shown in some circumstances but not others, to deal with this criticism. Despite this, strength of Piaget?s theory is that it has been highly influential and has had major effect on education in the UK. ...read more.

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