Piaget and Vygotsky: The Psychology of Cognitive Development

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This essay concerns the psychology of cognitive development. Cognitive development can be explained in terms of the acquisition, construction and progressive change in thought processes such as memory, problem-solving and decision-making that occurs from childhood to adulthood (in Smith, P.K., Cowie, H & Blades, M. 2003). Major pioneers in this area and whose work has been the foundation of much research in cognitive psychology are among Jean Piaget’s (1926) and Lev Vygotksy’s (1978). A common understanding between the two rest on the idea that cognitive development in children occurs through stages, however, their approach in identifying these stages highly differ (in Smith P.K. et al., 2003).

Piaget’s account of cognitive development
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They are; sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete and formal (in Passer, M. et al., 2009).
The sensorimotor occurs from birth up to two years old. Social interactions and the environment play a prominent role in the developing infant. The infant has the ability to form an understanding of reality and is successfully able to differentiate from itself and objects. The infant also achieves object permanence in which they realise that the existence of objects continues although it may not be visually presented to them (in Smith P.K. et al., 2003).

The pre-operational stage occurs between ages 2 to 4. The child is preoccupied with language and associating objects with certain images, symbols and words as the classification of objects is made easier this way. Since children are unable to conceptualize abstractly, Piaget explained this in terms of their egocentric thoughts, the idea that the child is seeing a world of its own thus having difficulty in seeing the viewpoint of others effectively (in Smith P.K. et al., 2003).
The concrete operational stage occurs between 7 to 11 years. Piaget contended that children’s abstract thinking is now limited thus being able to think logically about objects which in turn enables abilities of reversibility and conservation (in Smith P.K. et al.,…