1. Evaluate theories of cognitive development


We will attack a theory or two from each lens...lets start with...

Cognitive Theories (CLA) of Cognitive Development

The big guy here is JEAN PIAGET.....

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. He was interested in the way they arrived at their conclusions. His method has been criticized for:


OK...his theory.....

According to Piaget, there are qualitative differences between the way adults and children think. Action and self-directed problem solving are at the heart of learning and cognitive development in children. Formal logic is seen as the highest and last stage in intellectual development.

The child is seen as an active “scientist”: He or she actively constructs knowledge about the social and physical world as he or she interacts with it (constructionist approach). Each child builds his or her own mental representation of the world (schemas) used to interpret and interact with objects, people, and events. Piaget used the term “operation” to describe physical or symbolic manipulations (thinking) of things.


Stage theory: Children’s cognitive development progresses through stages over time. According to Piaget,

the content and sequence of stages in cognitive development is the same for all humans (universal theory). Children cannot learn or be taught how to function at higher levels of cognition before they have passed through the lower levels.


Now we move on to...

Sociocultural Theories of Cognitive Developement

The big guy here is Vygotsky.

Vygotsky’s sociocultural approach to cognitive development

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






OK...now lets move on to

Biological Theories of Cognitive Development

Brain development and neuroplasticity

Developmental cognitive neuroscience is an area of research that studies the relationship between brain development and cognitive competence. Research in this field explores the developing brain in order to understand healthy development but also how various factors may interfere with normal brain development and lead to problems in cognitive functioning.




Brain development and cognitive functioning


Chugani (1999) used PET scans to investigate glucose metabolism in the brains of newborn human babies.

He found:



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. For example, from age six to nine months there is increasing activity in the frontal lobes, prefrontal areas of the cortex and evidence of improved cognitive competence.

Giedd (2004) performed MRI scans in a longitudinal study of healthy children. He found that 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. 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.

Chugani et al. (2001) 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 social cognition.