There are many theories that involve cognitive development. Although these theories are on the same subject, they vary depending on different factors. By carefully studying the textbook and watching the videos, we can make some conclusions on how different and similar these theories on cognitive development are. The three theories that we will be comparing and contrasting are: Piaget’s, Vygotsky’s, and Information processing.
Piaget believed that, ‘children at all ages are like scientists in that they create theories about how the world works,’ (Kail, 2013, p.124). He believed that human’s learn for themselves. Piaget created four distinct stages that expand over the course of infancy to adulthood. These four stages are: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational. Each stage serves a different purpose in cognitive development. He believed that children develop through the different stages depending on their own personal experiences.
Although Piaget believed that children learn alone, Vygotsky proposed that, ‘development is an apprenticeship in which children advance when they collaborate with others who are more skilled,’ (Kail, 2013, p.144). In other words, Piaget believed that children are scientists, whereas Vygotsky believed that they are apprentice. ‘The area between the level of independent performance and the level of assisted performance is the zone of proximal development,’ (Vygotsky’s Developmental Theory: An Introduction). He believed that we must assist children in their learning so that they can learn effectively. Based on the previous readings of this textbook, a conclusion can be drawn that Piaget took a nature approach whereas Vygotsky had a nurture approach. Both theorists would agree that learning can lead development, and that language plays a central role in mental development, (Vygotsky’s Developmental Theory: An Introduction).
Information processing has some similarities as well as differences than that of Piaget and Vygotsky’s theories. Information processing is broken up by mental hardware and mental software (Kail, 2013, p. 137). Both Piaget and information processing theorists believe that children learn on their own. Likewise, all three theories support that as children develop, their understanding becomes more complex. A difference between these theories is that Piaget theory suggests four stages, however, information processing and Vygotsky’s theory do not.
If we compare and contrast these three theories, we grasp a deeper understanding of what these theories mean. We discovered that Piaget’s theory and information processing is more nature based, and Vygotsky’s theory is more nurture based. Piaget’s theory is based on different stages, meanwhile information processing and Vygotsky’s theory is not. By reading the book and watching the supporting videos, we can uncover more about cognitive development.
Young children are not only growing physically during early childhood, but they are also growing mentally. Children of this age continue to advance their skills in observing and interacting with the world around them. They also make tremendous leaps in how they process, store, and use information. As mentioned in the introduction, quantifying cognitive change is a bit tricky. We do not count the number of new neurons or measure the amount of connections between synapses and come up with averages for different ages. Rather, we rely on theories, such as Piaget's stages of cognitive development, Erickson's psychosocial stages, and Bronfenbrenner's ecological model to give us a way to understand and to measure children's mental and social development and progression.
According to Piaget, children in the Preoperational stage of development build on skills learned and mastered during the Sensorimotor stage. For a review of Sensorimotor development, please click here. During this stage, young children's play becomes increasingly imaginary and filled with fantasies. As children develop cognitively, their play will move from simple make-believe to plots involving more characters and scenarios, games with sophisticated rules, etc. According to Piaget, playing isn't just fun; it is an important part of brain development.
The Piagetian milestones described in this section are typical or average for young children ages 2-7 living in Western countries. Once again, however, each child is unique and will grow in his or her own time and way. As with physical milestones, if caregivers suspect that "something isn't right" or that their child is failing to complete major developmental tasks, they should discuss their concerns with a pediatrician or family doctor. Some young children may have developmental delays or challenges that can be identified and successfully addressed if caught early.