Promoting Cognitive Development
Everyone has a different opinion when it comes to raising children. Most parents do not look kindly on people telling them what they are doing is wrong. There are several different theorists that developed theories on how our children grow and develop. Cognitive development is one of the main categories studied by theorists and is still a leading area of study among people today. Jean Piaget, Burrhus Skinner (B. F. Skinner), Erik Erikson, and Lev Vygotsky are four of the leading psychologists that studied cognitive development.
Each had their own theory about how children develop. Studying these theories can help us to understand and aid our children’s cognitive development. Jean Piaget is considered to be the first psychologist to make a “systematic study of child development” (McLeod, 2009). Piaget developed the theory of cognitive development. According to Piaget “children are born with a very basic mental structure (genetically inherited and evolved) on which all subsequent learning and knowledge is based” (McLeod, 2009). He believed that children developed in stages.
These stages occur in succession and always in the same order and he suggested that “movement from one stage to the next occurred when a child reached an appropriate level of physical maturation and is exposed to relevant experiences” (Feldman, 2011, p. 142). Piaget’s stages were the sensorimotor stage (birth-2 years), the preoperational stage (2-7 years), concrete operational stage (7-11 years), and the formal operational stage (12 and up). In the sensorimotor stage of life Piaget suggested that babies know their surroundings by their movements and sensations.
In this stage they develop the sense that when they do something they get a reaction such as when they cry they get picked up. Piaget discovered that babies learn through assimilation and accommodation. Piaget’s second stage, the preoperational stage, children learned language and symbolism. He believed children at this stage were egocentric and think only of themselves. The third stage is the concrete operational stage. In this stage Piaget discovered that children begin to think logically. They understand concepts like conservation.
They also begin to develop reasoning. In Piaget’s fourth and final stage, formal operational stage, young adolescents begin to think abstractly. At this stage they also develop skills for thinking hypothetically. They develop more social, ethical, moral, social, and political reasoning and are able to theorize about issues. Piaget keyed the terms schemas, which is the “the basic building block of intelligent behavior,” “a set of linked mental representations of the world, which we use both to understand and to respond to situations” (McLeod, 2009).
He believed we store schemas and apply them when the right situation occurs. Piaget believed that schemas were really important to cognitive development. He believed that certain schemas are genetically programed into us like the sucking reflex that babies have. Piaget’s theory on intellectual growth is through the process of assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is the use of old schemas to deal with new situations. Accommodation comes next which is when the existing schema does not work we adapt it to make it work. Piaget was a pioneer in the study of child development.
He changed people’s perspective on children in that they are not just less competent thinkers than adults that they actually think in different ways than adults and grow and assimilate new information. Burrhus Skinner was a behavioral theorist. He believed that it was more productive to study observable behavior rather than internal mental events. He did not believe in ages or stages instead Skinner believed that behavior is learned through causes and consequences of actions. He called his approach operant conditioning. Skinner used positive and negative reinforcements to affect behaviors.
Skinner studied behavior modification which is “A formal technique for promoting the frequency of desirable behaviors and decreasing the incidence of unwanted ones” (Feldman, 2011, p. 24-25). He believed that behavior that is reinforced is more likely to be repeated and behavior that is not reinforces would be avoided. Skinner believed that information should be given out in small doses that way the responses can be reinforced. According to Skinner associations between stimuli, actions, and responses could explain nearly every aspect of human behavior and interaction.
This is depicted in the social-cognitive learning theory “an approach to the study of development that emphasizes learning by observing the behavior of another person, called a model” (Feldman, 2011, p. 25) This theory states that modeling and imitation can explain why children behave the way they do. Such as when children watch a parent wash their hands after going to the bathroom the child is more likely to imitate the behavior and do the same. . Erik Erikson was a student of Freud. He believed in a lot of the same theories and principles that Freud did and like Freud and Piaget he based his theories on stages.
He however developed the psychosocial theory which is “the approach to the study of development that encompasses changes in the understanding individuals have of their interactions with others, of others’ behavior, and of themselves as members of society” (Feldman, 2011, p. 22). He believed the culture had an effect on development. He put into play the importance of a more knowledgeable other, such as a parent or teacher as long as the other has more knowledge than the learner about a particular subject, task, or process.
In today’s world however this more knowledgeable other can be something like electronic support devices such as leap pads. Erikson’s stages were based on social development rather than sexual development. Erikson believed “the ego develops as it successfully resolves crises that are distinctly social in nature. These involve establishing a sense of trust in others, developing a sense of identity in society, and helping the next generation prepare for the future” (McLeod, 2008). He took the stages and extended them adding three more past the age of 18 well into adulthood.
Erikson’s first stage (birth- 18 months), was focused on t trust vs. mistrust in which the infant develop a sense of trust by getting their needs met or mistrust if they do not. The second stage (18 months- 3 years) was focused on autonomy vs. shame and doubt. In this stage children develop the no factor in which they are allowed to protest and say no. They develop self-sufficiency and exploration through encouragement from adults or they may develop doubt in themselves and lack of independence if they are not allowed to do things for themselves or have choices. The third stage (3-5 years) is the imitative vs. bguilt stage. In this stage Erikson believed children discover ways to start actions. Consequently they also develop guilt from their action and thoughts in this stage. The fourth stage in Erikson’s theory is the industry vs. inferiority stage (5-12 years). In this stage children develop feelings of competency or they may develop a sense of inferiority or lack of competence in themselves. The fifth stage (12-18 years) is the identity vs. role confusion. In this stage Erikson believe that adolescents develop an awareness for themselves and know their role in life.
On the other hand they may be confused and not understand their role or place in life. His sixth stage (18- 40 years) is the intimacy vs. isolation stage. This stage is focused on love. Erikson believed adults found loving, sexual relationships and close friends or struggled with relationships and may develop of fear of personal relationships. His seventh stage is the generatively vs. stagnation (40- 65 years). In this stage we develop the sense that we contributed to society or that we did not. His eighth and final stage is ego-integrity vs. despair (65+). In the last stage we contemplate whether we led a good life or we missed out on opportunities. Erikson believed that each stage posed a conflict or crisis that we must address and resolve. He explained that most issues were never fully resolved but were at least addressed and managed and carried over to the next stage in life. His research and thought are still widely used today. Mid-life crisis is a term that is commonly heard about adults around the age 40. This would be Erikson’s generatively vs. stagnation stage.
He believed in Lev Vygotsky developed the sociocultural theory which is “an approach that emphasizes how cognitive development proceeds as a result of social interactions between members of a culture” (Feldman, 2011, p. 30). Vygotsky believed that children developed with reciprocal transactions between the child and persons in the child’s environment such as parents, teachers, or other significant persons. He was not a stage theorists like Piaget, Freud, or Erikson. He believed that social interactions and the environment shaped a person.
Such as a child who grew up with extended family around all the time would have a different view of family than someone who did not. Vygotsky believed that social learning came before development instead of the other way around like Piaget. He believed that an individual’s development cannot be understood without referencing the social and cultural environment in which they developed in. Vygotsky developed the zone of proximal development. This principle is the concept that a child can do things that they might not be able to do independently but they can with a little help.
Vygotsky believed most important in a child’s life. He believed in scaffolding, which is “the support for learning and problem solving that encourages independence and growth” (Feldman, 2011, p. 229). With Scaffolding children learn to solve specific problems but it also aids in the overall cognitive development of the child. Each theorist had their own views and opinions of how children develop cognitively. Piaget, and Erikson’s theories are largely based on stages of development. Each one defining a critical age in which children develop. They all listed a certain time frame for each stage.
Piaget believed that children develop through direct motor behavior. Erikson views were that both society and culture shaped us and Vygotsky thought that children develop through social reciprocal transactions between family, teachers, and other significant persons and the child. Piaget would suggest the Jacksons have a sort of hands off approach. He believed in placing children in a rich environment and letting them explore it. He believed that children should not be praised very much because they may get hooked on the praise and they may put forth the energy to impress the adults instead of into learning.
He would suggest that letting the child play around and explore the environment rather than making the child sit and listen to someone teaching them. Burrhus Skinner would suggest that the Jacksons use operant conditioning with Jasmine. He believed that in order to produce optimal learning and behavior Jasmine should be rewarded and punished appropriately. When she does something good or right then she should be rewarded or praised. Likewise if she participates in a behavior that is undesirable or is wrong she should meet with negative reinforcement or be punished accordingly.
Erikson’s approach would suggest that the Jacksons that they let Jasmine participate in play with other children. Like Piaget he would suggest putting the child in a rich environment and letting her play and explore. Erikson might suggest that they let Jasmine plan activities and make up games. Also he might suggest encouraging Jasmine to initiate activities with others. This would help develop her imitative and make her feel competent in her decision making skills. He might also tell them to not treat any questions Jasmine may have as trivial or a nuisance.
This can cause her to feel guilty and not want to seek information. Vygotsky might suggest that the parents keep Jasmine in a social rich environment. He believes that social interaction plays a major role in cognitive development. He would encourage them to place Jasmine in a preschool in which she would learn from the teacher directly rather than exploring everything on her own. He might suggest the use of specialized electronics or computer programs to assist Jasmine in learning. He would encourage the Jacksons to help Jasmine when she needed it and nurture her learning.
Keith’s advice to the Jacksons would be dependent on which theorist he identified with. If he was a behaviorist like Skinner he would suggest praise and reinforcements for Jasmine. If he identified more with cultural learning such as Vygotsky he would suggest a cultural rich environment and helping her learn. Keith’s personal views on cognitive development would be suggested to the Jacksons for use. At the preschool age society and family play a major role in Jasmine’s development. She will most likely model what she sees her parents and other adults doing.
She will adapt the traditions and morals of her culture. Her family could be the determining role for her learning abilities. If they nurture her learning and provide her with the tools she needs to learn and feel competent then she will most likely thrive. If they do the opposite she is more likely to reject learning. Jasmine will begin to model things she sees in life such as her parent’s behavior as well as things she sees on television or video games. Psychologically she will begin to develop the feelings associated with actions and consequences. She will develop the feeling of guilt.
Her physical environment may affect her learning abilities such as a loud or noisy environment may cause her to have more troubles learning. Psychosocial influences such as family environment will begin to affect her learning abilities as well. A positive family environment will nurture her learning and a negative one may drastically affect her learning. Cognitive development has been an area of study for decades. From the first recognized cognitive theorist Jean Piaget to the present day theorist child development has been an important area of study.
Each psychologist Piaget, Skinner, Erikson, and Vygotsky had their own ideas and opinions on cognitive development throughout childhood. Whether we know it or not we typically identify with at least one of these psychologist in our view of child development. Each one brought bright ideas and intelligent answers to the way we develop cognitively. Today research is still being conducted on the cognitive development of children. Play is still being studied and is regarded as an important process for children’s cognitive development.
Some research suggests “social play opportunities promote social competence in a variety of ways including strengthening skills such as sharing, perspective taking, and negotiating. Social play opportunities also enhance conflict resolution skills and enrich self-concept” (Haney & Bissonnette, 2011). Child development will be a subject studied and researched for years to come. The works of Piaget, Skinner, Erikson, and Vygotsky made unbelievable progress and laid the foundation for future psychologists and the study of child development.