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Developmental Psychology. What is Cognitive Development?. A subset of psychology that focuses on how our intelligence changes over time. Cognitive Development. Evaluate theories of cognitive development. Discuss how social and environmental variables may affect cognitive development.

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Developmental Psychology

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Developmental psychology

Developmental Psychology

What is cognitive development

What is Cognitive Development?

  • A subset of psychology that focuses on how our intelligence changes over time.

Cognitive development

Cognitive Development

  • Evaluate theories of cognitive development

  • Discuss how social and environmental variables may affect cognitive development

Evaluate theories of cognitive development

Evaluate theories of cognitive development

The cognitive perspective of cognitive development

The Cognitive Perspective of Cognitive Development

Cognitive development1

Cognitive Development

  • It was thought that kids were just stupid versions of adults.

  • Then came along Jean Piaget

  • Kids learn differently than adults


Right now in your head, picture a model.


  • Children view the world through schemas (as do adults for the most part).

  • Schemas are ways we interpret the world around us.

  • It is basically what you picture in your head when you think of anything.

These 3 probably fit into your concept (schema) of a model.

But does this one?


If I teach my 3 year that an animal with 4 legs and a tail is a dog….


  • Incorporating new experiences into existing schemas.

What schema would you assimilate this into?

Or this?

What would he call this?

Assimilation in high school

Assimilation in High School

  • When you first meet somebody, you will assimilate them into a schema that you already have.

  • If you see two guys dressed like this, what schema would you assimilate them into?

  • Would you always be right?



  • Changing an existing schema to adopt to new information.

If I tell someone from the mid-west to picture their schema of the Bronx they may talk about the ghetto areas.

But if I showed them other areas of the Bronx, they would be forced to accommodate (change) their schema to incorporate their new information.

Piaget s stages of cognitive development

Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development

  • Piaget based his theory on observations and open-ended interviews.

  • This clinical method enabled Piaget to gain insight into the children's judgment and explanations of events

  • He presented children with a number of tasks designed to discover the level of logical reasoning underpinning their thinking

Stages of cognitive development

Stages of Cognitive Development

Sensorimotor Stage

  • Experience the world through our senses.

  • Do NOT have object permanence.

  • 0-2

Click Mom to see a baby with no object permanence.

Preoperational stage

Preoperational Stage

  • 2-7

  • Have object permanence

  • Begin to use language to represent objects and ideas

  • Egocentric: cannot look at the world through anyone’s eyes but their own.

  • Do NOT understand concepts of conservation.

Click the boy to see kids with egocentrism.



  • Conservation refers to the idea that a quantity remains the same despite changes in appearance and is part of logical thinking.

Click the boy to see kids trying to grasp conservation.

Concrete operational stage

Concrete Operational Stage

  • Can demonstrate concept of conservation.

  • Learn to think logically

Click the penguin to see kids try to grasp concrete logic.

Formal operational stage

Formal Operational Stage

  • What would the world look like with no light?

  • Picture god

  • What way do you best learn?

  • Abstract reasoning

  • Manipulate objects in our minds without seeing them

  • Hypothesis testing

  • Trial and Error

  • Metacognition

  • Not every adult gets to this stage

Criticisms of piaget

Criticisms of Piaget

  • Some say he underestimates the abilities of children.

  • Information-Processing Model says children to not learn in stages but rather a gradual continuous growth.

  • Studies show that our attention span grows gradually over time.

Criticisms of piaget1

Criticisms of Piaget

  • using a small and non-representative sample

  • lack of scientific rigor and cross-sectional design which makes it difficult to make conclusions about changes over time (a longitudinal design would be better to do this)

  • asking questions that are too complex for children.

Socio cultural perspective of cognitive development

Socio-cultural Perspective of Cognitive Development

Vygotsky s sociocultural approach to cognitive development

Vygotsky’s sociocultural approach to cognitive development

  • Vygotsky was a Russian psychologist. Like Piaget he thought that children’s thinking is different from adults’.



  • Children grow up in a specific historical, social, and cultural context and their knowledge and intelligence develop within the framework of that culture’s characteristics (e.g. history, artifacts, language, science).



  • The historical and cultural characteristics of each society influence the way people come to act upon and think about the world.

  • Vygotsky talks about “cultural tools” that individuals must learn to handle in order to function in that culture.

  • For example, today an important cultural tool in the West could be the computer.

The key to vygotsky s theory is

The Key to Vygotsky’s Theory is….

  • Vygotsky emphasizes language and instruction as the most important factors in intellectual and personal development.

  • a contrast to Piaget’s view of children,, who must discover everything by themselves through concrete or mental “operations”.

We need help from our surroundings to cognitively develop

We need help from our surroundings to cognitively develop….

  • If children receive instructions from other, more skilled individuals they can understand and accomplish things that they would not be able to achieve alone.

Zone of proximal development

Zone of Proximal Development

  • the gap that exists for an individual child between what he or she is able to do alone (zone of competence) and what he or she can achieve with help from someone who has more knowledge.

  • A skilled instructor can lead the child through the zone.

Biology and cognitive development

Biology and Cognitive Development

Brain development and neuroplasticity

Brain development and neuroplasticity

  • Developmental cognitive neuroscience is an area of research that studies the relationship between brain development and cognitive competence.

Neural networks

Neural networks

  • Neural networks change as a result of learning, experience, and age.

  • Each human brain has a unique neural architecture due to differences in individual experience.

Developmental psychology

  • The neural connections (dendritic branching) in the brain grow in size and complexity after birth and myelination (covering the neuron with myelin – white matter) is accelerated.

  • Synaptic growth is most significant in childhood and adolescence.

Developmental psychology

  • Interaction with loving and responsive caregivers contributes to healthy brain development.

  • Various factors such as early social deprivation, inadequate nutrition, or living in a polluted environment may interfere with normal brain development.

Brain development and cognitive functioning

Brain development and cognitive functioning

  • The brain doubles in size from birth to young adulthood.

  • Fissures become more complex!!!!

  • especially in the areas that process cognitive and emotional information

Developmental psychology

  • Developmental neuroscientists use brain imaging (e.g. PET and MRI) to study the relationships between brain development and cognitive processes in infants and young children.

Harry chugani and his pet scans

Harry Chugani and his PET Scans

  • Brains burn glucose when we think

  • used PET scans to investigate glucose metabolism in the brains of newborn human babies.

Chugani and his pet scans

Chugani and his PET Scans

  • There was little activity in the cerebral cortex (executive function)

  • There was activity in the brain stem and the thalamus (inborn reflexes such as grasping)

Chugani and his pet scans1

Chugani and his PET Scans

  • There was activity in the limbic system (amygdala, hippocampus and hypothalamus).

  • These areas are associated with emotional processing, memory, and bonding

  • Lack of stimulation in these areas in early life can lead to abnormal behavior and attachment difficulties.

Chugani and his pet scans2

Chugani and his PET Scans

  • The research found that the lower levels of the brain are developed first (measured as activity) and over time glucose consumption can be registered in higher levels of the brain.

Chugani and his romanian orphans

Chugani and his Romanian Orphans

  • found that Romanian children who had spent time in institutions before being adopted showed deficits in cognitive tasks dependent on prefrontal function such as attention and planning.



  • performed MRI scans in a longitudinal study of healthy children.

  • 95% of the brain structure is formed when the child is around five or six years old.



  • but areas in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) start growing again in adolescence.

  • What do you think that means?



  • The PFC is the last part of the brain to mature.

  • It is responsible for cognitive processes such as planning, impulse control, direction of attention, and decision making.

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