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Chapter 7 Cognition. Chapter 7: Cognition. Cognition: the activity of knowing and the processes through which knowledge is acquired and problems are solved Constructivism – people are active learners. Jean Piaget (1896-1980). Genetic Epistemology How we come to know reality Clinical Method

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Chapter 7Cognition

Chapter 7 cognition
Chapter 7: Cognition

  • Cognition: the activity of knowing and the processes through which knowledge is acquired and problems are solved

  • Constructivism – people are active learners

Jean piaget 1896 1980
Jean Piaget (1896-1980)

  • Genetic Epistemology

    • How we come to know reality

  • Clinical Method

    • Question and answer technique

    • Used to discover how children think about problems

Clinical method example of a 6 year old
Clinical Method (example of a 6 year old)

  • Piaget: Why is it dark at night?

  • Van: Because we sleep better, and so that it shall be dark in the rooms.

  • Piaget: Where does the darkness come from?

  • Van: Because the sky becomes grey.

  • Piaget: What makes the sky become grey?

  • Van: The clouds become dark.

  • Piaget: How is that?

  • Van: G-d makes the clouds become dark.


  • Intelligence: How well we adapt

    • Scheme (s) or schema (schemata)/cognitive structures

  • Organization

    - Children systematically combine existing schemes into new and more complex ones.

    - E.g., infant who gazes, reaches, and grasps will organize these simple schemes into a complex structure called visually directed reading.

  • Adaptation

    • Adjusting to the environment

    • Using assimilation and accommodation

  • Assimilation

    • Using existing schemes to interpret new experiences

    • E.g., Birds are things that fly

  • Accommodation

    • Modifying schemes to fit new experience

    • E.g., Butterflies are different than Birds even though they both fly

  • Equilibrium

    • A resolution of conflict to create a balance

Cognitive DevelopmentPiaget’s Theory

  • Piaget’s Four Stages

  • Cognition unfolds in a sequence of four stages.

  • Each is age-related and distinctive.

  • Each stage is discontinuous from and more advanced than another.


  • Sensorimotor Stage

    • Newborn uses reflexes to understand world

    • Eventually - mental representation

      • Object Permanence

      • A, not B, error – 8 to 12 month-olds search for an object in the place where they last found it (A) rather than in its new hiding place (B).

    • Symbolic Capacity (read in book)

Symbolic function substage 2 4 years
Symbolic Function Substage(2-4 Years)

  • Symbolic thought: Mental representation of an object that is not present (drawing, pretend play, and language)

  • Egocentrism: The inability to distinguish between one’s own perspective and someone else’s perspective.

  • Animism: The belief that inanimate objects have “lifelike” qualities and are capable of action.

They Centrate: Focusing on one characteristic to the exclusion of others.

No Conservation: Some characteristic of an object stays the same even though the object might change in appearance.

  • Intuitive rather than logical

  • Lack classification ability

  • Lack conservation due to static thinking, irreversible thought and centration

  • Asks a lot of questions

    • signals the emergence of the interest in reasoning

    • reflects intellectual curiosity




This grouping is by shape and size and color. It is

multiple classification. The child has to think of three

dimensions at once. In what stage could the child do this?

Conservation of Length

Is one of these lines longer or are they they same?

What would the pre-operational child say?

Conservation of Length

The preoperational child would say the one on

the top is longer. Pre-operational children

base their concepts on perception, not logic.

Conservation of Length

Are all of these lines the same length? Is one longer?

What would the pre-operational child say?

Conservation of Length

Preoperational children are tricked by perception.

The think the one “out front” is longer.

Conservation of Area Which side has more green?

Both have the same area of green. Preoperational children rely on perception and think the one on the right has more.

Conservation of Number

Do these two rows have the same number of balls?

Do these two rows have the same number of balls?

Which has more?

Conservation of Number

Pre-operational children think the row on the

bottom has more. Later they develop

one-to-one correspondence.

They understand there is one for this

one, one for that one, and one for that one, etc.

Concrete operations
Concrete Operations

  • Age 7-11

  • Can conserve

    • Decentration

    • Reversible thinking

    • Logical thinking (limited to reality)

  • Seriation and classification

  • Transitive thinking:

    • “ If J is taller than M, and M is taller than S, who is taller – J or S?”

Short answer
Short Answer

When a child can focus on both width and length of two triangles in order to compare their areas, Piaget would say that the child is capable of _________________.

Formal operations
Formal Operations

  • Adolescence/puberty

  • Logical thinking about ideas

    • Hypothetical and abstract thinking

    • Hypothetical-deductive reasoning – from general ideas to their specific implications

  • Decontextual thinking

    • Ability to separate prior knowledge/beliefs from new evidence to the contrary

Formal operations 2
Formal Operations 2

  • Adolescent egocentrism

    • Differentiating own thoughts from others’

      • Imaginary audience

        • Also, learning to present themselves to a real audience

      • Personal fable

        • “No one has ever felt like this before!”

        • “I drive better when I’m drunk!”

Cognition in adulthood
Cognition in Adulthood

  • Formal operations requires

    • Normal intelligence

    • Higher education (scientific thinking)

  • Lower performance on formal operations

    • Use only in field of expertise

  • Postformal thought

    • Relativistic thinking: Labouvie-Vief

    • No absolute answer in many situations

  • Piaget2

    • Contributions

      • Stimulated much research

      • Correct about the sequence of cognitive development

    • Challenges

      • Underestimated young minds

      • Focused on performance not competence

      • Domain specific rather than stages

      • Social influences left out (too much the “isolated scientist.”


    • Emphasized the socio-cultural context

      • Culture affects how and what we think

    • Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)

      • Accomplishment with guidance

      • Where lessons should be aimed

    • Guided participation (a form of scaffolding) learning

    • Private speech/ guides behavior (3 & 4 yr olds)

    Cognitive development vygotsky s theory
    Cognitive DevelopmentVygotsky’s Theory

    The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)

    student can work with the student can work

    assistance of an instructor ________________________ independently

    Language and Thought

    • Develop independently of each other

    • Have external or social origins


      Teacher adjusts the level of support as performance rises


    Applications of Vygotsky’s Theory

    • New Task = Mentor + Learner

    2.Time Passes = Gradual Release

    3. Learner Takes on the Responsibility for learning