I.  Piaget's constructivist approach

            Cognition-- activity of knowing and through which knowledge is acquired

            Piaget’s focus on mistakes and stages

            Genetic epistemology-- branch of philosophy that studies how one comes to know the


            Clinical method-- flexible question-and-answer technique sometimes criticized as not


            A.  What is Intelligence?

                        Basic life function that facilitates adaptation to environment

                                    a.  newborns enter world with sense and reflexes and are active agents in


                                    b.  knowledge in form of schema--mental cognitive structures

                                    c.  schema become more sophisticated with development (organized

                                         patterns of thought or action)

                                    d.  more sophisticated schema allow for better adaptation

            B.  How Does Intelligence Develop?

                        1.  Organization-- combining schema into new and complex schema

                        2.  Adaptation-- adjusting to the demands of the environment

                                    a.  assimilation-- interpret new experiences using existing schema

                                    b.  accommodation-- modify existing schema to fit new experience

                                    c.  cognitive disequilibrium-- mental conflict cased when we fail to


                        3.  Constructivism-- theory that children “construct reality” and actively create

                             knowledge from their own experiences using assimilation and accommodation

                        4.  Four distinct stages resulting from interaction of biological maturation and


                                    a.  sensorimotor stage (0-2 years)

                                    b.  preoperational stage (2-7 years)

                                    c.  concrete operations (7-11 years)

                                    d.  formal operations (11 and beyond)


II.  The infant

            Sensorimotor stage-- know world through senses and actions

            Behavioral schema patterns of actions

            A.  Substages of the Sensorimotor Stage

                        1.  Substage 1:  Reflexive activity (birth to 1 month)

                                    based on innate reflexes

                        2.  Substage 2:  Primary circular reactions (1 to 4 months)

                                    repeat interesting acts centered on own body

                        3. Substage 3:  Secondary circular reactions (4 to 8 months)

                                    repeat interesting acts centered on object

                        4.  Substage 4:  Coordination of secondary schema (8 to 12 months)

                                    combine actions to solve simple problems

                        5.  Substage 5:  Tertiary circular reactions (12 to 18 months)

                                    experiment with new ways to solve problems

                        6.  Substage 6:  Beginning of thought (18 months to 2 years)

                                    begin to solve problems mentally

            B.  The Development of Object Permanence

                        1.  Object permanence-- understanding objects exist when they leave presence

                        2.  Develops gradually over sensorimotor period

                                    partially mastered by Substage 4

                        3.  Commit A, not B, error-- looking for object where last seen, not new place

                        4.  In Substage 5 continue to struggle with invisible displacements

                        5.  Fully developed by 18 months or so

                        6.  Piaget may have underestimated timing of acquisition of object permanence

                                    a.  Baillargeon and colleagues found early evidence of object permanence

                                         using looking task

                                    b.  at 2 1/2 months infants on tracking task do not show object permanence

                                    c.  at 3 months have acquired the skill

                        7.  Research on children with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) provides insight

                             into process of object permanence

                                    a.  infants with SMA have normal IQ but severe muscle problems

                                    b.  SMA children are slower to reach for objects

                                                i.    slower reaching allows for longer thinking and SMA kids do

                                                      better on object permanence tasks

                                                ii.    results indicate that task conditions like interval between seeing

                                                      and searching for hidden object may impact behavior

                        8.  Data supports some of Piaget’s ideas about object permanence

                                    important to distinguish between looking and reaching

            C.  The Emergence of Symbols

                        1.  Crowing acquisition during sensorimotor stage

                        2.   Acquire symbolic capacity-- use images/words to represent



III. The child

            A. The Preoperational Stage (Roughly Age 2 to 7 Years)

                        1.  More sophisticated symbolic capacity

                                    a.  imaginary companions-- pretend friends created by young children


                                    b.  perceptual salience-- focus on the obvious features of object or

                                         situation leads to children being fooled by appearance

                        2.  Lack of conservation

                                    a.  conservation-- properties of object do not always vary when

                                         change occurs

                                                problems of conservation-of-liquid-quantity task

                                    b.  unable to decenter-- focus on two dimensions simultaneously

                                    c.  centration-- tend to focus on single aspect of problem

                                    d.  reversibility-- process of mental undoing

                                                i.    lack of reversibility leads to difficulty on conservation task

                                                ii.    irreversibility-- cannot engage in reversibility

                                    e.  transformation thought-- ability to conceptualize transformation

                                    f.  preoperational thinker engages in static thought-- thought fixated on end

                                         state not transformation into another state

                        3.  Egocentrism-- tendency to view world solely from one’s own perspective

                                    often assume that if they know something other people do too

                        4.  Difficulty with classification

                                    lack class inclusion-- logical understanding that parts are included in the


                        5.  Did Piaget underestimate the preschool child?

                                    a.  Gelman (1972) used simplified conservation-of-number task with beads

                                                evidence that children can perform earlier than Piaget believed

                                    b.  classification skills are found in young children that include prompting

                                    c.  ability to think at higher levels than Piaget thought, but mostly on

                                         simple tasks

            B.  The Concrete Operations Stage

                        1.  Concrete operations stage--mastering many logical operations lacking in

                             preoperational thinkers (roughly ages 7-11)

                        2.  Conservation

                                    a.  ability to solve conservation tasks improves

                                                i.    can decenter-- can mentally juggle two dimensions at once

                                                ii.    acquire reversibility of thought

                                                iii.   can engage in transformational thought

                                    b.  horizontal decalage-- different skills within stage occur at different


                        3.  Seriation and transitivity

                                    a.  seriation-- mentally order objects along quantifiable dimension

                                    b.  transitivity-- understand logical relationship of objects in a series

                        4.  Other advances

                                    a.  class inclusion-- understand that two subclasses can be in a whole

                                    b.  can engage in mathematical operations


IV.  The adolescent

            A.  The Formal Operations Stage

                        1.  Formal operations-- can mentally manipulate abstract objects/concepts (age 11

                             or older)

                        2.  Hypothetical and abstract thinking

                                    a.  deal with contrary

                                    b.  not bound by reality

                                    c.  thought is more abstract

                        3.  Problem solving

                                    a.  systematic and scientific (less trial and error)

                                    b.  hypothetical-deductive reasoning-- reasoning from general ideas to

                                         specific implications

                                                vary factors while holding other constant

                        4.  Progress toward mastery

                                    a.  gradual transition into formal operations

                                    b.  early versus late aspects of formal operations thinking

                                    c.  Piaget’s claim that intuitive reasoning is replaced by scientific

                                         reasoning not supported

                                                two forms of reasoning-intuitive and scientific- coexist in older


                                    d.  ability to decontextualize--  separate prior knowledge from task at hand

                                    e.  progress slow, but today’s teens may be better able to solve formal

                                         tasks than teens from past generations

            B.  Implications of Formal Thought

                        1.  Good news-- identity, complex thought, understanding others

                        2.  Bad news-- confusion, rebellion, and idealism

                                    a.  adolescent egocentrism (Elkind)-- ignorance of perspective of others

                                    b.  imaginary audience-- hypothesized audience (self-consciousness)

                                    c.  personal fable-- feeling of absolute uniqueness (no one understands


                        3.  Unable to link between adolescent egocentrism and formal thought

                                    imaginary audience fear may be due to real peers and consequences


V.  The adult

            A.  Limitations in Adult Cognitive Performance

                        Half of college students and adults lack mastery of formal operations

                                    a.  lack of expertise in a domain of knowledge hurts adult responding

                                    b.  strongest performance in area of own expertise

            B.  Growth Beyond Formal Operations?

                        1.  Postformal thought-- term for logic beyond formal thinking

                        2.  Relativistic thinking-- realizing understanding subjective to knower

                                    a.  absolutist-- assumes truth line in nature and is only one truth

                                    b.  relativist-- problem can be viewed in multiple ways and one’s

                                         assumptions influence the “truth”

                                    c.  Perry found changes in college students

                                                i.    students originally look for the answer to a question

                                                ii.    take position that any position is as good as another

                                                iii.   able to make commitments to positions

                                    d.  advances in thought

                                                i.    concrete thinker-- focus on objects

                                                ii.    formal thinker-- mentally manipulate ideas

                                                iii.   postformal thinker-- manipulate whole systems of ideas

                                                iv.   postformal thinking seen in a minority of adults

            C.  Aging and Cognitive Skills

                        Poorer performance on Piagetian tasks of older cohorts due to several factors

                                    a.  lack of motivation to solve the tasks

                                    b.  difference in problem solving style

                                    c.  poorest performance on laboratory and unfamiliar tasks


VI.  Piaget in perspective

            A.  Piaget's Contributions

                        Giant in the field of human development

                                    a.  stimulated research

                                    b.  showed infants active in own development using processes of

                                         assimilation and accommodation

                                    c.  some logical processes of preschoolers explained

                                    d.  accurate basic description of cognitive-developmental sequences

            B.  Challenges to Piaget

                        1.  Underestimating young minds

                        2.  Failing to distinguish between competence and performance

                                    a.  failure does not necessarily mean lack of competence

                                    b.  overemphasized the idea that knowledge is all-or-nothing

                        3.  Wrongly claiming that broad stages of development exist

                                    ignores idea of domain specific knowledge

                        4.  Failing to adequately explain development

                                    vague description of how development comes about

                        5.  Giving limited attention to social influences on cognitive development


VII. Vygotsky's sociocultural perspective

            A.  Lev Vygotsky

                        1.  Born 1896 (same year as Piaget)

                        2.  Active scholar during 1920s and 30s

                        3.  Work banned by Russian government

                        4.  Died at age 38

5.      Basic argument-- cognitive growth occurs in a sociocultural context and

evolves out of the child's social interactions

            B.  Culture and Thought

                        1.  Society precedes the individual

                                    environment provides conditions that allow for the emergence of thinking

                        2.  Each culture has own impact

                                    children raised in small villages have similar answers, children in urban

                                    setting have different answers

                        3.  Knowledge depends on social experience

            C.  Social Interaction and Thought

                        1.  Zone of proximal development-- gap between what can accomplish alone

                             versus with assistance of more skilled partner

                                    a.  knowledge not fixed (cannot be tested by single test)

                                    b.  upper limit of knowledge moves in response to cultural change

                        2.  Guided participation-- scaffolding of involvement in culturally relevant

                             activities rejects Piaget’s view of children as independent explorers

            D.  The Tools of Thought

                        1.  “Tools” used to assist thinking

                        2.  Language  (spoken and written) is a key tool

                                    a.  disagreed with Piaget’s emphasis on egocentric nature of speech

                                    b.  private speech-- speech to self that guides own thought and behavior

                                                i.    varies with age and task

                                                ii.    more frequent in open-ended activities

                                                iii.   intellectually capable children more likely to engage in private


                                                iv.   metacognitive based private speech contributes to effective


                                    c.  social speech-- conversation; inner speech-- silent verbal thought

            E.  Evaluation of Vygotsky

                        1.  Placed needed emphasis on role of social environment on cognitive


                        2.  Too much emphasis on social interactions