Cognitive Development in Adulthood: Progress in Cognitive Development Research

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The Growth of Knowledge: Crash Course Psychology #18

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  1. Cognitive Development in Adulthood.
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An example of this is being able to reverse the order of relationships between mental categories. For example, a child might be able to recognize that his or her dog is a Labrador, that a Labrador is a dog, and that a dog is an animal, and draw conclusions from the information available, as well as apply all these processes to hypothetical situations. During this stage the young person begins to entertain possibilities for the future and is fascinated with what they can be.

Adolescents also are changing cognitively by the way that they think about social matters. However, it carries over to the formal operational stage when they are then faced with abstract thought and fully logical thinking. Piagetian tests are well known and practiced to test for concrete operations. The most prevalent tests are those for conservation. There are some important aspects that the experimenter must take into account when performing experiments with these children. One example of an experiment for testing conservation is an experimenter will have two glasses that are the same size, fill them to the same level with liquid, which the child will acknowledge is the same.

Cognitive Development Domain

Then, the experimenter will pour the liquid from one of the small glasses into a tall, thin glass. The experimenter will then ask the child if the taller glass has more liquid, less liquid, or the same amount of liquid. The child will then give his answer. The experimenter will ask the child why he gave his answer, or why he thinks that is. During this time, people develop the ability to think about abstract concepts. It is often required in science and mathematics. This capability results from their capacity to think hypothetically.

Piaget and his colleagues conducted several experiments to assess formal operational thought.


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In one of the experiments, Piaget evaluated the cognitive capabilities of children of different ages through the use of a scale and varying weights. The task was to balance the scale by hooking weights on the ends of the scale. To successfully complete the task, the children must use formal operational thought to realize that the distance of the weights from the center and the heaviness of the weights both affected the balance.

A heavier weight has to be placed closer to the center of the scale, and a lighter weight has to be placed farther from the center, so that the two weights balance each other.

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By age 10, children could think about location but failed to use logic and instead used trial-and-error. Finally, by age 13 and 14, in early adolescence, some children more clearly understood the relationship between weight and distance and could successfully implement their hypothesis. Piaget gives the example of a child believing that the moon and stars follow him on a night walk. This conjunction of natural and non-natural causal explanations supposedly stems from experience itself, though Piaget does not make much of an attempt to describe the nature of the differences in conception.

The stage of cognitive growth of a person differ from another. It affects and influences how someone thinks about everything including flowers. A 7-month old infant, in the sensorimotor age, flowers are recognized by smelling, pulling and biting. A slightly older child has not realized that a flower is not fragrant, but similar to many children at her age, her egocentric, two handed curiosity will teach her. In the formal operational stage of an adult, flowers are part of larger, logical scheme. They are used either to earn money or to create beauty.

Cognitive development or thinking is an active process from the beginning to the end of life. To achieve this balance, the easiest way is to understand the new experiences through the lens of the preexisting ideas. However, the application of standardized Piagetian theory and procedures in different societies established widely varying results that lead some to speculate not only that some cultures produce more cognitive development than others but that without specific kinds of cultural experience, but also formal schooling, development might cease at certain level, such as concrete operational level.

A procedure was done following methods developed in Geneva. Participants were presented with two beakers of equal circumference and height, filled with equal amounts of water. The water from one beaker was transferred into another with taller and smaller circumference. On the other hand, an experiment on the effects of modifying testing procedures to match local cultural produced a different pattern of results.

Piaget designed a number of tasks to verify hypotheses arising from his theory. Notwithstanding the different research traditions in which psychometric tests and Piagetian tasks were developed, the correlations between the two types of measures have been found to be consistently positive and generally moderate in magnitude.

A common general factor underlies them. Piagetian accounts of development have been challenged on several grounds. First, as Piaget himself noted, development does not always progress in the smooth manner his theory seems to predict. For example, even young infants appear to be sensitive to some predictable regularities in the movement and interactions of objects for example, an object cannot pass through another object , or in human behavior for example, a hand repeatedly reaching for an object has that object, not just a particular path of motion , as it becomes the building block of which more elaborate knowledge is constructed.

Social interaction teaches the child about the world and helps them develop through the cognitive stages, which Piaget neglected to consider. One important finding is that domain-specific knowledge is constructed as children develop and integrate knowledge. This enables the domain to improve the accuracy of the knowledge as well as organization of memories.

Skip to main content. Part II: Educational Psychology. Search for:. Return to Table of Contents. Cognitive development. In Encyclopedia of special education: A reference for the education of children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities and other exceptional individuals. Simply Psychology. Jean Piaget. In Key thinkers in linguistics and the philosophy of language.

Cognitive Development: Age 2–6

Neil J. Gale Virtual Reference Library. The role of action in the development of thinking. In Knowledge and development pp. Springer US. Mills, G. Wiebe Eds. Memory and intelligence. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Geber Ed. Piaget, Jean Byrne Ed. Strickland Ed.

Cognitive Development: Age 2–6

Detroit: Gale. Salkind Ed. Piaget, Jean — Guthrie Ed. Child Development. Educational Psychology.


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  • Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Caring, responsive adults provide the base from which infants can fully engage in behaviors and interactions that promote learning. Such adults also serve as a prime source of imitation. There is substantial variation in how intelligence is defined within different cultures Sternberg and Grigorenko As a result, different aspects of cognitive functioning or cognitive performance may be more highly valued in some cultural contexts than in others. Aspects of intelligence that have to do with social competence appear to be seen as more important than speed in some non-Western cultural contexts Sternberg and Grigorenko Research has identified a broad range of cognitive competencies and described the remarkable progression of cognitive development during the early childhood years.

    Experts in the field describe infants as active, motivated, and engaged learners who possess an impressive range of cognitive competencies National Research Council and Institute of Medicine and learn through exploration Whitehurst and Lonigan Infants demonstrate natural curiosity. They have a strong drive to learn and act accordingly. Everyday experiences—for example, crying and then being picked up or waving a toy and then hearing it rattle—provide opportunities for infants to learn about cause and effect.

    This knowledge helps infants better understand the properties of objects, the patterns of human behavior, and the relationship between events and the consequences. Through developing an understanding of cause and effect, infants build their abilities to solve problems, to make predictions, and to understand the impact of their behavior on others. Infants learn about spatial relationships in a variety of ways; for example, exploring objects with their mouths, tracking objects and people visually, squeezing into tight spaces, fitting objects into openings, and looking at things from different perspectives Mangione, Lally, and Signer They spend much of their time exploring the physical and spatial aspects of the environment, including the characteristics of, and interrelationships between, the people, objects, and the physical space around them Clements Infants exhibit a high level of interest in solving problems.

    Even very young infants will work to solve a problem, for example, how to find their fingers in order to suck on them National Research Council and Institute of Medicine Older infants may solve the problem of how to reach an interesting toy that is out of reach by trying to roll toward it or by gesturing to an adult for help. Infants and toddlers solve problems by varied means, including physically acting on objects, using learning schemes they have developed, imitating solutions found by others, using objects or other people as tools, and using trial and error.

    Imitation is broadly understood to be a powerful way to learn. It has been identified as crucial in the acquisition of cultural knowledge Rogoff and language. Imitation by newborns has been demonstrated for adult facial expressions Meltzoff and Moore , head movements, and tongue protrusions Meltzoff and Moore Infant imitation involves perception and motor processes Meltzoff and Moore This type of interaction builds over time as the infant and the adult add elements and variations in their imitation games.

    Infants engage in both immediate imitation and delayed imitation. Immediate imitation occurs when infants observe and immediately attempt to copy or mimic behavior. As infants develop, they are able to engage in delayed imitation, repeating the behavior of others at a later time after having observed it. The capacity to remember allows infants and toddlers to differentiate between familiar and unfamiliar people and objects, anticipate and participate in parts of personal care routines, learn language, and come to know the rules of social interaction.

    Although age is not the only determinant of memory functioning, as infants get older they are able to retain information for longer periods of time Bauer Infants exhibit long-term recall well before they are able to articulate their past experiences verbally Bauer b. The emergence of memory is related to the development of a neural network with various components Bauer b. In the first months of life, infants exhibit recognition memory for all manner of natural and artificial stimuli.

    Research findings indicate that infants as young as five months of age are sensitive to number and are able to discriminate among small sets of up to three objects Starkey and Cooper ; Starkey, Spelke, and Gelman Infants demonstrate the ability to quickly and accurately recognize the quantity in a small set of objects without counting. This ability is called subitizing. In other words, infants have a capacity to distinguish among numbers and to reason about these numbers in numerically meaningful ways Wynn ; Gallistel and Gelman In some sense, they know that three objects are more than one object.

    Around the same age, children also begin to count small collections of objects; however, they may point to the same item twice or say a number word without pointing to an object. And they begin to construct an understanding of cardinality i. Three-month-olds demonstrate that they expect people to act differently than objects Legerstee They also demonstrate the ability to discriminate between smiling and frowning expressions Barrera and Maurer Mandler distinguishes between two types of categorization made by infants: perceptual and conceptual.

    Perceptual categorization has to do with similarities or differences infants sense, such as similarities in visual appearance.

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    Conceptual categorization has to do with grouping based on what objects do or how they act. Representational thinking is a core component of symbolic play. By the time children are around 18 months of age, they use one object to stand for, or represent, another. For example, an month-old may pretend a banana is a telephone. At around 36 months, children engage in make-believe play in which they represent an object without having that object, or a concrete substitute, available.

    As children approach 36 months of age, they increasingly engage in pretend play in which they reenact familiar events. Make-believe play allows older infants to try to better understand social roles, engage in communication with others, and revisit and make sense of past experiences. Outdoor environments, such as sandboxes Moser or play structures, offer rich opportunities for symbolic play or pretending. Although outdoor play areas are often considered most in terms of motor behavior or physical activity, they also offer special opportunities for symbolic play Perry For example, children playing outside may pretend to garden or may use a large wheeled toy to reenact going on a shopping trip.

    Attention maintenance has been described as a form of cognitive self-regulation. Attention maintenance permits infants to gather information, to sustain learning experiences, to observe, and to problem-solve.



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