Cognition can be defined as "the act or process of
knowing in the broadest sense; specifically, an intellectual
process by which knowledge is gained from perception or
Jerome Bruner and Cognitive
Bruner's work in cognitive psychology led to an interest in the
cognitive development of children and related issues of
education, and in the 1960s he developed a theory of
cognitive growth. Bruner's theories, which approach
development from a different angle than those of Jean Piaget,
focus on the environmental and experiential factors
influencing each individual's specific development pattern.
His argument that human intellectual ability develops in
stages from infancy to adulthood through step-by-step
progress in how the mind is used has influenced experimental
psychologists and educators throughout the world. Bruner is
particularly interested in language and other representations
of human thought.
Enactive Action: It implies that most of the activities of
the child are motor activities and are related to motor
Iconic Image: At this stage the child is guided by his
mental imagery. He is able to form his own mental
images and expresses himself on that basis.
Symbolic Word: The child at this stage expresses
himself in the form of words. He comes to have a
mental sense of time and distance. At this stage
language learning also begin.
Jean Piaget and Cognitive Development
Jean Piaget began his career as a biologist. But his interest
in science and the history of science soon overtook his
interest in snails and clams. As he delved deeper into the
thought-processes of doing science, he became interested
in the nature of thought itself, especially in the
development of thinking. Finding relatively little work done
in the area, he had the opportunity to give it a label. He
called it genetic epistemology, meaning the study of the
development of knowledge.
Piaget’s stage theory describes the cognitive development
of children. Cognitive development involves changes in
cognitive process and abilities. In Piaget’s view, early
cognitive development involves processes based upon
actions and later progresses into changes in mental
Schemas : Schemas are categories of knowledge that
help us to interpret and understand the world. In Piaget’s
view, a schema includes both a category of knowledge
and the process of obtaining that knowledge. As
experiences happen, this new information is used to
modify, add to, or change previously existing schemas.
Assimilation – The process of taking in new information
into our previously existing schema’s is known as
assimilation. The process is somewhat subjective,
because we tend to modify experience or information
somewhat to fit in with our preexisting beliefs.
Accommodation – Another part of adaptation involves changing or
altering our existing schemas in light of new information, a process
known as accommodation. Accommodation involves altering
existing schemas, or ideas, as a result of new information or new
experiences. New schemas may also be developed during this
Assimilation and accommodation are the two sides of adaptation,
Piaget’s term for what most of us would call learning.
Equilibration – Piaget believed that all children try to strike a
balance between assimilation and accommodation, which is
achieved through a mechanism Piaget called equilibration. As
children progress through the stages of cognitive development, it is
important to maintain a balance between applying previous
knowledge (assimilation) and changing behavior to account for
new knowledge (accommodation). Equilibration helps explain how
children are able to move from one stage of thought into the next.
Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development
Sensory Motor Period
(0 - 24 months)
Developmental Stage Characteristic Behavior
& Approximate Age
Reflexive Stage Simple reflex activity such as grasping, sucking.
Primary Circular Reactions Reflexive behaviors occur in stereotyped repetition
(2-4 months) such as opening and closing fingers repetitively.
Secondary Circular Reactions Repetition of change actions to reproduce interesting
(4-8 months) consequences such as kicking one's feet to more a
mobile suspended over the crib.
Coordination of Secondary Reactions Responses become coordinated into more complex
(8-12 months) sequences. Actions take on an "intentional" character
such as the infant reaches behind a screen to obtain a
Tertiary Circular Reactions Discovery of new ways to produce the same
(12-18 months) consequence or obtain the same goal such as the
infant may pull a pillow toward him in an attempt to
get a toy resting on it
Invention of New Means Through Mental Evidence of an internal representational system.
Combination Symbolizing the problem-solving sequence before
(18-24 months) actually responding. Deferred imitation.
The Preoperational Period
• During the preoperational stage, children also become increasingly
adept at using symbols, as evidenced by the increase in playing and
pretending. For example, a child is able to use an object to represent
something else, such as pretending a broom is a horse. Role playing also
becomes important during the preoperational stage. Children often play
the roles of "mommy," "daddy," "doctor," and many others.
Piaget used a number of creative and clever techniques to study the
mental abilities of children. One of the famous techniques
egocentrism involved using a three-dimensional display of a
mountain scene. Children are asked to choose a picture that showed
the scene they had observed. Most children are able to do this with
little difficulty. Next, children are asked to select a picture showing
what someone else would have observed when looking at the
mountain from a different viewpoint.
Invariably, children almost always choose the scene showing their
own view of the mountain scene. According to Piaget, children
experience this difficulty because they are unable to take on another
Developmental Stage Characteristic Behavior
& Approximate Age
Preoperational Phase Increased use of verbal representation but speech is
(2-4 years) egocentric. The beginnings of symbolic rather than
simple motor play. Transductive reasoning. Can think
about something without the object being present by
use of language.
Intuitive Phase Speech becomes more social, less egocentric. The child
(4-7 years) has an intuitive grasp of logical concepts in some areas.
However, there is still a tendency to focus attention on
one aspect of an object while ignoring others. Concepts
formed are crude and irreversible. Easy to believe in
magical increase, decrease, disappearance. Reality not
firm. Perceptions dominate judgment.
In moral-ethical realm, the child is not able to show
principles underlying best behavior. Rules of a game not
develop, only uses simple do's and don'ts imposed by
Period of Concrete Operations
•Piaget determined that children in the concrete operational stage
were fairly good at the use of inductive logic. Inductive logic
involves going from a specific experience to a general principle.
On the other hand, children at this age have difficulty using
deductive logic, which involves using a general principle to
determine the outcome of a specific event.
•One of the most important developments in this stage is an
understanding of reversibility, or awareness that actions can be
reversed. An example of this is being able to reverse the order of
relationships between mental categories. For example, a child
might be able to recognize that his or her dog is a Labrador, that a
Labrador is a dog, and that a dog is an animal.
Period of Formal Operations
Thought becomes more abstract, incorporating the principles of formal
logic. The ability to generate abstract propositions, multiple hypotheses
and their possible outcomes is evident. Thinking becomes less tied to
Logic: Piaget believed that deductive logic becomes important during the
formal operational stage. Deductive logic requires the ability to use a
general principle to determine a specific outcome. This type of thinking
involves hypothetical situations and is often required in science and
Abstract Thought: While children tend to think very concretely and
specifically in earlier stages, the ability to think about abstract concepts
emerges during the formal operational stage. Instead of relying solely on
previous experiences, children begin to consider possible outcomes and
consequences of actions. This type of thinking is important in long-term
Problem-Solving: In earlier stages, children used trial-and-error to solve
problems. During the formal operational stage, the ability to systematically
solve a problem in a logical and methodical way emerges. Children at the
formal operational stage of cognitive development are often able to
quickly plan an organized approach to solving a problem.