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According to Piaget, children understand the world with ____________.


*Children actively construct knowledge as they manipulate and explore their world; they build schemas (knowledge structure) by the processes of assimilation and accommodation.



psychological/cognitive structures that organize experience

*schemes are mental categories of related events, objects, and knowledge


Piaget's Constructivist Approach

-Children of the same age often make...?
-Studied how children...?
-Piaget's initial studies...?

-Piaget noticed that children of the same age often made similar kinds of mental mistakes

-Studied how children think, not just what they know

-Piaget’s initial studies were his naturalistic observations of his own infant children


Piaget's theory is based on what?

Kid's mistakes

*Dr. Allaire mentioned this as a possible test question


Piaget’s Constructivist Approach – How Does Intelligence Develop?

1. Knowledge is created by building...?
2. This knowledge is assimilated by using two inborn functions _______ and _______.

1. Knowledge is created by building schemes from experiences using two inborn functions, organization and adaptation

2. Organization and adaptation.

-Organization – existing schemes are systematically combined into new and complex schemes

-Adaptation – process of adjusting to the demands of the environment that occurs through assimilation and accommodation



Building schemes through direct interaction with environment by assimilation and accommodation



Using current schemas to interpret external world (knowledge/experience). Assimilation occurs when new experiences are readily incorporated into existing schemes.

ex. Baby has basic grasping schema. Baby discovers through assimilation that grasping schema also works on blocks and toy cars.



Adjusting old schemes (knowledge) and creating new ones to better fit environment. Accommodation occurs when schemes are modified based on experiences.

ex. Child has schema for dog = dog has 4 legs. Believes that all animals with four legs = dog. Child then learns that cats have 4 legs. Schema for dogs will now adjust, and new schema for cats forms.


Cognitive conflict or disequilibrium occurs when?

When new events seriously challenge old schemes or prove our existing schemes to be inadequate.

*Child realizes they are spending too much time accommodating and less time assimilating (disequilibrium)



When disequilibrium occurs, children reorganize their schemes to return to a state of equilibrium.

*Disequilibrium leads to cognitive growth


Piaget's Four Stages of Cognitive Development

1. Sensorimotor stage: birth to approx. 2 years of age
2. Preoperational stage: approx. 2-7 years of age
3. Concrete operations stage: approx. 7-11 years of age
4. Formal operations stage: approx. 11 years of age and beyond


1st Stage of Cognitive Development: Sensorimotor stage

-birth to 2 years of age

-the world is understood through the senses and actions

-The dominant cognitive structures are the behavioral schemes that develop through coordination of sensory information and motor responses


Object Permanence

Understanding that objects continue to exist when out of sight


According to Piaget, when does object permanence develop?

8-12 months

*Prior to 8 months:
If I drop my toy and I can’t see it, it is gone! (peek-a-boo)

8 to 12 months
You hid my toy, I’m looking for it the last place I saw it.

After a year
You hid my toy, I’m looking for it!


2nd Stage of Cognitive Development: The preoperational stage

Three characteristics of preoperational stage?

-2-7 years of age

1. egocentrism
2. centration
3. appearance as reality


Preoperational stage:


Belief that others see the world exactly as they do, and have difficulty recognizing other points of view


Preoperational stage:


Piaget's term for narrowly focused thought. Preoperational youngsters have tunnel vision: they concentrate on one aspect of a problem but ignore other equally relevant aspects.

*Piaget’s conservation-of-liquid-quantity task --
Children younger than 6 or 7 typically do not understand that the volume of liquid is conserved despite the change in the shape it takes in different containers


Preoperational stage:

Appearance as Reality

Preoperational children confuse appearance and reality.

Ex. a glass of milk looks brown when seen through sunglasses. To the a preoperational child, the milk is brown.


Preoperational stage:

Difficulty with classification

Difficulty with classification

-Using criteria to sort objects on the basis of characteristics such as shape, color, function

-Lack class inclusion, the ability to relate the whole class (furry animals) to its subclasses (dogs, cats)

-The preoperational child does not understand that the subclasses are included within the whole class


Common criticisms of Piaget's theory:

-Underestimates cognitive competence in infants and young children and overestimates competence in adolescents

*Infants have a greater understanding of objects than Piaget thought

-Vague with respect to processes of change. Ex. assimilation and accommodation too vague to be tested.
-Model does not account for variability in child’s performance. Child's thinking may be sophisticated in some domains but naive in others.
-Undervalues the influence of the sociocultural environment


General Principles of Information Processing

-Human thinking based on __________ and __________?

Mental hardware and mental software


Mental hardware

refers to mental and neural structures that are built in and that allow the mind to operate.


Mental software

refers to mental “programs” that are the basis for performing particular tasks



the process that determines which sensory information receives additional cognitive processing


Two aspects of attention:

Orienting response, and habituation


Orienting response

an unfamiliar stimulus produces a change in heart rate and brain waves



the diminished response to a stimulus once it becomes familiar (ex. the sound of traffic)


Learning can take on these four forms:

Habituation, Classical Conditioning, Operant Conditioning and Imitation


Learning: Classical Conditioning

A neutral stimulus elicits a response originally produced by another stimulus

Example: running water makes an infant cry because he knows he is getting a bath


Learning: Operant Conditioning

Focuses on the relation between the consequences of behavior and the likelihood that the behavior will recur

*Example: a baby’s smile is rewarded with a hug, therefore she will be more likely to smile in the future