Three Theories of Cognitive Development

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Three Theories of Cognitive Development

The Swiss psychologist and philosopher Jean Piaget (1896-1980) is well-known for his work towards the cognitive sciences. Arguably one of his most important contributions involves his theory of cognitive development. In this theory, thinking progresses through four distinct stages between infancy and adulthood. Similar in scope to Piaget’s theory is Information Processing, in which human thinking is based on both mental hardware and mental software (Kail, Cavanaugh). A final theory on cognitive development was established by the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934). Vygotsky proposed that development is a collaborative effort between child and partner. While these three theories attempt
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Also changing is the way an adolescent thinks about social matters. The future is beginning to be thought of in relation to what he or she can become.

Information Processing In this view, human thinking is based on mental hardware (allows the mind to operate) and mental software (basis for performing particular tasks). There are several different aspects to this theory. Learning and cognitive development can happen through habituation, classical and operant conditioning, and imitation. Habituation is the diminished response to a stimulus as it becomes more familiar. Constantly responding to insignificant stimuli is wasteful, so habituation keeps infants from devoting too much energy to non-important events. In classical conditioning, a stimulus elicits a response that was originally produced by another stimulus. No new behaviors are learned, but an association is developed (Huitt, W. and Hummel, J). For example, a toddler may frown when he hears water running in the bathroom because he realizes that it is time for a bath. Operant conditioning emphasizes reward and punishment. This helps children form expectations about what will happen in their environment. Imitation is important in older children and adolescents. This process entails a “watch and learn” kind of approach. A boy can learn how to play basketball by watching a
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