Psychologists have examined the growth of human beings from infancy to adulthood. They have focused on the aspects that contribute to personality traits, the way of living, and also mental development. Of keen interest are the effects of some stimuli of human development for example does genetics pre-program an individual to be an extrovert or is the trait a result of a certain life event or the environment?
Theory of cognitive development
Cognitive development is the process in which children become aware of the changes occurring around them as they grow up and gain experience. According to (Huitt& Hummel, 2003), Cognitive theories analyze the qualitative and quantitative mental capabilities that occur during development. Piaget summarized the cognitive development of children into four stages. He observed that different stages differ from each other in the amount of information acquired and the level of understanding as a result.
This is the infancy stage. It commences from the time of birth and goes on to around two years. The stage marks the development of motor skills without any symbolic representation. This means that children are incapable of comprehending things outside their immediate sight. Knowledge of their surrounding is limited. They begin acquiring their intellectual ability through physical development. (Huitt& Hummel, 2003) Pre-operational stage (toddler-early childhood)
It starts from around two years to seven years. Children demonstrate their cognitive abilities by the use of language and symbolic representations. They are dominated by egocentric thinking. They develop memory and can internalize things that are in absentia but they are not able to interpret how others interpret what they cannot. For example, children will hide by covering their faces with hands thinking that since they cannot see, the others cannot see them either.
Concrete operational stage
It is the age between elementary and early adolescence. It is observed between the ages of seven to twelve years. Children start developing clear ways of thinking. The stage is marked by a reduction of egocentric thinking. They show their cognitive abilities through the orderly and logical use of symbols and by showing that they understand the passage of time and also space. In this stage, children have trouble understanding abstract thoughts.
Formal operational stage
This is the age between adolescence and adulthood. The stage begins from the age of twelve to adulthood. The adolescent develops a logical form of thinking and starts to understand abstract concepts. They can understand the concept of casualty and choices available as they can relate an outcome with a cause of action and see different outcomes from different actions. Only a few percentages of the general population reach this final stage. The percentage is far much lower in developing countries due to low technological advancement. Am very lucky to have been around my small sister as she grew up though, she has not yet attained adulthood. We have an age difference of about 14 years and therefore I can relate quite well with this theory of Piaget. In the early months of development, at around eight to one year she would not arrange her toys in colors or sizes. When she was around the age of two years we could play some hide and seek game and she could hide well but when you ask for her she came out of the hiding place and said that she was there. My mother was working out of town and therefore she could only come once per month and therefore my sister would not freely interact with her until after seeing her for more than two hours in the house. When she attained the age of three years, she could recite poems and sing songs mostly learned from daycare and preschool. She also would learn popular beats from the radio and could sing though not coherently. She could sing a song with vulgar language without rely knowing the message in the song.
Social cognitive theory
In Social Cognitive Theory, the learner is viewed as thoroughly integrated with the environment within which he or she is learning. The learner’s cognitive responses, behaviors, and environment all work together to create learning (Inman, n.d). The theory developer, Bandura held that individuals have a system in themselves that helps them in exercising self-control on their thoughts, emotions, and the way they act. This built system is the one that holds cognitive and affective structures that nature the various abilities like symbolizing, learning from others, regulating behavior, planning alternative strategies, and engaging in self-reflection. The self-system when integrated with the environment play major roles in providing reference mechanism and also sets functions for perceiving, regulating and evaluating behavior (Inman, n.d).
I can personally identify with this theory in that I grew up in a bad neighborhood where we were susceptible to various forms of crimes. Most of my peers were drug addicts and robbers. For some time I resisted influence and did so well in school but my friends were not so negative about it. They could come to school during break time and try to lure me to leaving the school. Eventually, I could not resist their pressure and I heed to them and joined their bad company. It took time for my parents to know and when they discovered I was taken to a boarding school that helped me reform and they also made sure we moved from that neighborhood to another place that drugs and crime were not common.
The theory I prefer I prefer Bandura’s theory that clearly shows how the environment can shape one’s behavior and character. We are the product of our environment and the things that surround us. For example, different communities act in different ways due to the environment they grew in. As human beings we also try to describe people from the environments they grow up in. for example we can all try to differentiate people from where they come from by the way they talk and interact with others. We all behave the way we behave due to the culture we are used to. For example, if a child was raised by monkeys in the forest she would act, chatter, and eat like the monkeys. This shows us how the environment can shape our behavior, character, and the way we think and feel about different things.
Huitt, w., & Hummel, J. (2003). Piaget’s theory of Cognitive development. Educational Psychology Interactive. , GA: Valdosta state University. 2009. Web.
Inman, J (n.d.). Running head: social cognitive theory. 2009. Web.