early childhood - Piaget

Early Childhood Cognition
Jodie Baird
Swarthmore College
Piaget’s Theory of
Cognitive Development
Jean Piaget (1896-1980)
Swiss psychologist
Father of modern cognitive developmental psychology
How do children develop knowledge?
According to Piaget
• By acting upon the world
• By revising theories of the world
– assimilation and accommodation
• In stages
– qualitative change
– invariant sequence
– universal
Piaget’s Stages
• Sensorimotor (birth - 2 years)
• Preoperational (2 - 7 years)
• Concrete Operational (7 - 11 years)
• Formal Operational (11 years - adult)
Piaget’s Stages
• Sensorimotor (birth - 2 years)
• Preoperational (2 - 7 years)
• Concrete Operational (7 - 11 years)
• Formal Operational (11 years - adult)
Limitations of
Preoperational Thought
• Centration
• Egocentrism
• Appearance as reality
• Focusing on one aspect of a problem,
ignoring other relevant aspects
• Example:
– Conservation
Conservation of Number
Conservation of Liquid
• Thinking everyone sees things the same
way you do
• Difficulty taking another’s perspective
• Examples:
– Three-mountains task
– Egocentric speech
Three Mountains Task
Child is asked to pick the picture that shows what the
diorama looks like from the partner’s point of view.
Egocentric Speech
• Child and partner - separated by a
barrier - have identical sets of cards
• Child has to describe one card to the
“It’s the
“The one with
a tail.”
Appearance as Reality
• Tendency to confuse what something
looks like with what it really is
• Example:
– Fear of Halloween costumes
Appearance as Reality
Strengths of
Preoperational Thought
• Symbolic representation
• Pretend play
What is a Symbol?
A symbol is any entity that someone intends to
stand for something other than itself.
Symbolic understanding requires
• Awareness of relation between symbol
and referent
• Mapping corresponding elements from
one to the other
• Drawing an inference about one based
on knowledge of the other
Children’s Understanding
of Scale Models
Judy DeLoache
• Real room and a model of real room
• All details are identical except size
• Experimenter hides Snoopy in model
• Child is asked to find Snoopy in real room
Can children find Big Snoopy?
• 3-year-olds CAN (77% correct)
• 21/2-year-olds CAN’T (15% correct)
Why do 21/2-year-olds fail?
• Not a memory problem
• Perhaps a problem of dual representation
Evidence for Dual-Representation
• Decrease physical salience
– e.g., photograph instead of model
– better performance
• Increase physical salience
– e.g., encourage interaction with model
– worse performance
• Eliminate need for symbolic understanding
– e.g., shrunken room (DeLoache, Miller, & Rosengren, 1997)
– better performance
Why does it matter?
• Education
– Objects to represent abstract concepts
• Legal System
– Anatomically correct dolls