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Cognitive Developmental Theories

Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory

 Believes that children are neither driven by undesirable instinct

nor molded by environmental influences.
 Views children as constructivists, that is, as curious active
explorers who respond to the environment according to their
understanding of its essential features
 Divides intellectual development into four (4) major periods:

a.) Sensorimotor- (birth to two years)

 Infants use sensory and motor capabilities to explore

and gain a basic understanding of the environment
 At birth they have only innate reflexes with which to
engage in the world. By the end of the sensorimotor
period, they are capable of complex sensorimotor
 Infants learn that objects continue to exist when they
are out of sight (object permanence) and begin to
internalize behavioral schemata to produce images or
mental schemata.

b.) Preoperational (two to seven years)

 Children use symbolism (images and language) to

represent and understand various aspects of the
 Thought is egocentric, meaning, that children think
everyone sees the world in much the same way as they
 Children become imaginative in their play activities.
They gradually begin to recognize that other people
may not always perceive the world as they do.

c.) Concrete Operations (seven to eleven years)

 Children are no longer fooled by appearances. By

relying on cognitive operations, they understand the
basic properties of and relations among objects and
events in the everyday world.
 Able to solve concrete (hands-on) problem in logical
 Understand laws of conservation and are able to
classify and seriate; understand reversibility.
 Becoming much more proficient at inferring motives
by observing other behavior and the circumstances in
which it occurs.

d.) Formal Operations (eleven years and beyond)

 Able to solve abstract problems in logical fashion

 Becomes more scientific in thinking
 No longer is logical thinking limited to the concrete or the
observable; children enjoy pondering hypothetical issues
and as a result may become rather idealistic;
 Capable of systematic, deductive reasoning that permits
them to consider many possible solutions to a problem and
pick the correct answer.

Jerome Bruner’s Theory of Cognitive Development

 The human mind gains inputs through the senses, processes

them through cognitive abilities and produces outputs employing
language and creative expression
 Involves three (3) stages:

o Enactive stage (0 to 8 months)- Children respond to

sensory stimuli
o Iconic stage (18 months to 6 years) – Children view the
world through concrete representations.
o Symbolic stage (6 years onwards) – the individual can
handle abstract representations, using his thinking skills to
understand things.

Sociohistoric-Cognitive/Linguistic-Cognitive Development- Lev

Semanovich Vygotsky

 Cognitive development is dependent on the child’s interaction

with those around him; social stimulation aids mental and
language development.
 Believes the child acquires new skills and information with the
zone of proximal development (ZPD), the distance between a
child’s actual development level and a higher level of potential
development obtained through an adult guidance.
 This theory suggests that, in addition to providing a stimulating
environment, early childhood educators need to promote
discovery, explaining and providing suggestions to sult each
child’s zone of proximal development.

The Behaviorist Theory of Development – John Watson

 Basic premise of Watson’s “behaviorism”

 That the mind of an infant is a “tabula rasa” and the

learned associations between stimuli and responses are
the building blocks of human development.
 Development does not proceed through series of stages; it
is a continuous process marked by the gradual acquisition

of new and more sophisticated behavioral pattern, or
 Only the simplest of human reflexes (for example, the
sucking reflex) are inborn and that important behavioral
tendencies, including traits, talents, values and aspirations
are learned.

The Moral Development Theory – Lawrence Kohlberg

a.) Level One – Preconventional Morality (0-9 years)

 Called preconventional because young children do not

really understand the conventions or rules of a society.
 Often manifested by avoiding punishment and receiving
benefits in return.
 Comes in two (2) stages:

Stage 1: Punishment – Obedience Orientation (2

years to 7)

 The physical consequence of an action determines

goodness or badness
 With the belief that those in authority have superior
power and should be obeyed
 Punishment is avoided by staying out of trouble

Stage 2: Instrumental Relativist Orientation (pre-

school to school age)

 An action is judged to be right if it is instrumental or

satisfying one’s own needs
 With the belief that obeying rules should bring some
sort of benefits in return

b.) Level Two – Conventional Morality (9 to 20) years

 Called conventional since 9 to 20 years olds conform

to the conventions or rules of the society.
 Manifested by respecting authorities
 Involves two (2) stages:

Stage 3: Good Boy- Nice Girl Orientation

 The right action is one that would be carried out by

someone whose behavior is likely to please or
impress others

Stage 4: Law and Order Orientation

 To maintain the social order, fixed rules must be

established and obeyed. It is essential to respect
c.) Level Three – Post conventional Morality (after age 20)

 This is only reached after age 20 and by only a small

proportion of adults
 Called postconventional level because the moral
principles that underlie the conventions of a society
are understood.
 Manifested through moral agreements and consistent
 Involves two (2) stages:

Stage 5: Social Orientation

 Rules are needed to maintain the social agreement

at the same time that the rights of the individual are

Stage 6: Universal Ethical Principle Orientation

 Moral decisions are made in terms of self-chosen

ethical principles. Once principles are chosen, they
are applied in consistent ways.

Needs Theory – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Lower-Order Needs

1. Physiological Needs
 Food, air, water, sleep.

2. Security and Safety

 Safety, economic security.

Higher-Order Needs

3. Love and Belonging

 Family and friends

4. Esteem and Status

 One’s feelings of self-worth and of competence

5. Self-actualization

 Becoming all that one is capable of becoming.