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Psychology of Human Growth and Development
Cognitive development part 1
cognitive development part 2
Psychosocial development
Development of emotions
Language development
Cognitive development part 1
Perceptual development part 2
Development of attachment
Nature versus nature
Introduction to developmental theories
Prenatal development and chromosomal abnormalities
Prenatal development and teratogens
Brain development
Motor development
Physical growth
Perceptual development

cognitive Development




         Latin word meaning “processes related to thought and knowledge.

         The mental activity through which human beings acquire and process knowledge.

         Includes the functions of perception, learning, memory, reasoning and thought


piaget’s development constructivism


         Piaget proposed that the developing child had radically different ways of thinking and understanding at different points in development.

         Active role of children

o        They continuously and actively seek out information 

o        And adapt it to the knowledge that they already have.


         Cognitive structures

o        Schemas

         Our understanding of the world begins with the development of sensorimotor schemas.

         Rooted in and evolve out of basic reflexes that are present at birth.

         Rough mental representation that includes the most important or critical features in a stimulus or a stimulus field.

         Mental structures

o        Image

         A more elaborated and conscious representation

         A better developed function of discrimination.

o        Rules

         Also called principles / generalizations

         Are statements of the relationship between two or more concepts

         These cognitive units occupy a very prominent place in the Piagetan discussion of the transition from the pre-operational stage to the stage of concrete operations.


         Cognitive processes

o        organization

o        adaptation

o        assimilation

o        accommodation


piaget’s stages of cognitive development


         Sensorimotor period (birth to 2 years)


o        Starting point of the development which leads to thought processes.

o        Thought originates from the sensorimotor intelligence and continues to influence thought throughout life by observations and practical forms of behaviour.

o        Stage 1: Reflex modification (0 to 1 month)

         The reflexes that infants are born with initially occur only when triggered by specific stimuli.

         Reflexes become modified

         1) Altered:

         2) Occur in the absence of the stimuli that initially triggered them.

o        Stage 2: Primary circular reactions (1-4 months)

         Primary: Limited to actions that involve the infants own body.

         Circular:The behaviour is prompted by its own completion.

         Basic reflexes are further modified

         Evolving into schemas or action patterns that become divorced from the stimuli that initially triggered them.


o        Stage 3: secondary circular reactions (4-8 months)

         Circular reactions are extended to include objects outside the infant’s body.

         Infants become better at differentiating themselves from the things about them.

o        Stage 4: Coordination of secondary schemata (8-12 months)

         Actions become more coordinated and complex

         Acts for a purpose / goal directed

o        Stage 5: Tertiary circular reactions (12-18 months)

         This stage is the beginning of problem solving.

         Experiments with objects and all the different ways that they can accomplish something.

o        Stage 6: mental representations (18-24 months)

         this ability enables children to think of things that are not present opening a world of imagination and fantasy.

         Thought becomes symbolic and conceptual.

         Symbolic thought

         The use of mental images to represent people, objects and invents.

         facilitates problem solving.

         Mentally combining schemata:

         Newfound ability to think through problems leads to the emergence of sudden solutions with little or no overt trial and error.

         Still in early stages.

         Deferred imitation

         Child mimics an action some time after having observed it

         Requires that the child has a stored mental image of that action.

         Object permanence

         The notion that objects and people continue to exist independent of our seeing or interacting with them.

         Stage 1(birth – 2 months)

         Show no reaction when something they have been following with their eyes disappears from view.

         Neither look for it nor reach for it.

         Stage 2 (2-4 months)

         Will follow something with their eyes as it moves out of sight

         Stage 3(4-6 months)

         Tracking errors disappear

         Infants begin to reach for things that are only partially visible.

         They will stop in mid-reach if the toy is completely covered from view before they contact it

         Suggest to Piaget that to infants objects cease to exist for infants when perceptual contact with them is lost.

         Stage 4(6-12 months)

         Will retrieve objects that are completely hidden from view

         Place errors: looking for things where they have been found previously even when they have just seen them moved somewhere else.

         Stage 5(12-18 months)

         Continue to look for first object

         No longer make place errors

         Errors of invisible displacement: Have difficulty understanding that something can be moved while out of sight

         Stage 6(18-24 months)

         Errors of invisible displacement are overcome.

         Fully acquire the concept of object permanence.

         Able to make inferences about the positions of unseen objects even when the objects have been displaced several times.



o        Object permanence is achieved far earlier than Piaget thought.

         Developmental limitations make it difficult for young children to show that they have object permancence e.g Baillargeon (1987)

o        2) Infants use of the modalities

         evidence shows that infants can use information provided by one modality to recognize something they have experienced in another modality. E.g. Meltzoff (1979) and Steri and Spelke (1988)


o        3) Infants perception of a 3-dimensional world

         Evidence shows that infants perceive their world as made up of solid 3 d objects  E.g.: Spelke (1988)


         Preoperational period

v      Main characteristic is the child’s development of the symbolic function.

v      Development of thought proper

v      Marked by egocentricity and intuitive behaviour.

o        Symbolic function

         The ability to use symbols such as images, words and gestures to represent objects and events in the world.

o        Preconceptual stage (2-4 years).

         Thoughts are characterized by animistic thinking.

          Thoughts are characterized by egocentricity.

o        Intuitive stage (4-7 years)

         Child begins to solve problems by means of specific mental operations but cannot explain how they arrive at this solution

         Child employs certain mental operations that he / she is not aware of the principles she has used. e.g.:

         This stage is characterized by a growing ability to form concepts with a gradually increasing co-ordination of logical relations.

         Thinking is still imperfect

         Intuitive thinking begins

         Limitations to child’s thinking

         1) cannot perform a seriation task

         2) cannot perform class inclusion




         1) Way Piaget posed his questions confused the children smith (1979)


o        Conservation

         Primary accomplishment during the preoperational period

         Conservation is the notion that altering an object’s or a substance’s appearance does not change its basic attributes or properties.


         Horizontal declage

         Conservation of number, mass, length, area, weight and volume occurs at different times.

         They will attain conservation for these at different times: Due to the differing degree of the abstraction required

         Child is aware of the constancy of objects but cannot yet extend that idea to a collection of objects.

         Child is focusing on the changes that he has observed on the height and the width of the water rather than on the constant amount.

         Limitations to child’s thinking

         1) inability to understand reversibility

         2) focus on the ends rather than the means

         3) centration




         1) child can conserve earlier than Piaget thought

         Children can conserve if they are

         given simpler tasks

         taught to attend to all the relevant aspects of the stimuli being presented


         Concrete operations period (7 /8 to 11 / 12)

o        Period in which the child acquires such concepts as conservation and classification and can reason logically.

o        Thought processes are often lucid and logical in structure and include appropriate linguistic expression but this does not imply ability to arrive at logical conclusions independent of actions.

o        Child can coordinate chronological relations with duration relations

o        The operations which determine the following appear at this age:

         the structure of spatial relationships

         the combination of interval and distance

         the appreciation of surface and length

         the growth of a spatial co-ordination system

         perspective projections etc.

o        can often solve problems only when the objects necessary for problem solution are physically present.



         1) underlying changes in mental operations due to lack of memory not lack of physical stimuli.

         2) have evidence that even young infants can classify objects at an earlier age than Piaget thought and more sophisticated eg:Behl-Chada

         3) importance of culture in determining which concepts will be learned when – cross-cultural studies.


         Formal operations period (11 or 12 onwards throughout adolescence)

         Flexible and abstract thought, Complex reasoning, hypothetically-deductive reasoning.

o        Formal thought is fully established

o        Typical of fully developed theoretical intelligence.


         1) not as universal as Piaget thought


critique of piaget’s theory of cognitive development


         Strengths of the theory

o        Integrate and give meaning to a wide array of information.

o        Lead new research by:

          stimulating hunches / heuristic ideas

         providing direction into new areas of exploration

o        Theory is ecologically valid


         Weaknesses of the theory

o        Piaget underestimated the abilities of both older and younger children

o        Cognitive development does not proceed in stages as suggested by Piaget

o        Paid little attention to feelings, wishes, desires

o        Did not investigate social relationships

o        Methodology

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