Cognitive Development Throughout the Lifetime


Cognitive development is an important process in the growth and development of human beings from childhood to adulthood. Cognitive psychology development refers to the progression of areas of mental advancement, which determine intelligence. Mental progression is expressed through attentiveness, language development, and reasoning, making of perceptions, memory development, and problem-solving. These processes develop differently in various age groups. Mental processes affect people’s behaviors. This explains the existence of various behavior patterns in different age categories. Therefore, conclusions can be drawn from the anticipated behavior pattern between the elderly and average adults (Schater & Wegner, 2009). This paper focuses on the cognitive area of thinking and intends to show how thinking processes vary in different age groups.

An area of cognition (thinking)

Thinking is an act, which is mostly controlled by the mind. Thoughts define the choices people make under different circumstances. One needs to think to form concepts within the brain. Thinking is vital because it leads to decision-making, which is an integral process of every person regardless of age. For instance, a person has to decide to pick up fruits and eat, or someone else will make the decision to offer fruits to them, or else the person starves. Regardless of the action, decision-making is utilized. The thinking process dictates logic to a person. The reasoning makes people find a certain set of actions relevant or irrelevant. The thinking process is also vital because it leads to problem-solving. As such, thinking ability is important when formulating solutions to various life challenges. The thinking process can be boosted through various mechanisms in a bid to perfect human brain functions (Feigenson, Dehaene, & Spelke, 2004).

How cognitive processes develop from childhood through old age

Cognitive psychology development occurs at various stages in different age groups. Some psychologists have preferred to explain this phenomenon by developing models. The stages of cognitive development can be classified under different age groups as follows.

  1. Children thinking process. This is the initial stage of cognitive development, mainly from birth up to the time when a person is twenty years old. Thinking and other cognitive skills at young ages of below two years are expressed mildly. Children of this age make use of their senses more than their brains. During this period, a child has no sense of ‘object performance’. To them what is within the vicinity is the sole world they know. By the time the child reaches seven years, they make use of symbols to understand objects in the real world. The child boosts its thinking ability by trying to figure a certain object simply. For instance, a child at this stage imagines that the world looks like an orange. This explains why teachers who start teaching these children use symbols more frequently. They may refer to number 1 as a stick, 2 as a duck, and other symbols to create such imagery, and boost thinking in the child’s mental faculties (Ormrod, 2012). However, a child cannot tell whether objects remain similar even when their shapes change. For instance, a child believes that ten coins of one shilling have more value than two coins of 20 shillings. As children approach the age of twelve they develop a sense of logic, and their thinking process is advanced.
  2. Middle-adult thinking process. This is a stage undergone by people who have reached twenty years till they are in their late fifties. A normal human being, whose mental processes have not been affected by mental illness, will be able to handle issues with ease. People can decide what to do and what not, and making choices and decisions becomes easier. The level of imagination during this stage is high because one can picture things they have never seen in their brain (Schater & Wegner, 2009).
  3. Late-adulthood thinking process. In ages above sixty years, the memory tends to accommodate less amount of workload. Most old people are affected by memory lapses and lower ability of cognitive processing. Thinking is affected by memory failure. As they age, the number of things that the old people think about narrows down to those that affect them directly and immediately. They tend to ignore things that do not affect children’s well-being (Schater & Wegner, 2009).

How children’s /elderly individuals’ cognitive processes differ from that of adults

  1. How adults differ from children and the elderly. The thinking process among adults is more developed as compared to that of children and the elderly because, during this stage of growth, the memory is sharp. Adults have an active imagination system. Their agility in problem-solving is highly evident since the mind reasons fast at this age. Having more information in different areas of their lives makes their thinking advanced as compared to that of children (Ormrod, 2012). They are flexible in handling various areas of their lives, which makes their thinking fast.
  2. How children differ from the other age groups in thinking. Children, on the other hand, still have their minds developing. They have a few experiences as compared to adults. Children’s world is small since they have a few things in their circle to give a concentration. At this age, children only have studies to think about, unlike adults who have work and family issues to handle, among other issues. Therefore, they do not have any pressure to think and come up with tough decisions (Feigenson, Dehaene & Spelke, 2004).
  3. How the elderly differ from adults in thinking. The elderly, on the other hand, are mainly affected by memory failure. This affects their thinking. Most people in this age group have stopped working and having new experiences in their lives. Such factors make older people think less. The reasoning is low in instances where the brain is exercised low.

Suggested ways to improve performance in children and elderly in thinking

To improve thinking in children, certain materials can be used, they include engaging the children in mind developing games such as computer games, puzzles, and similar games, which make children analyze more, therefore, boosting their reasoning. Storytelling also helps boost the creative reasoning of children. As children listen to different stories, their minds open up to diverse possibilities; this helps provoke deep imagination among the children (Ness & Stephen, 2007). Tests and exercises are other tools that can boost children’s thinking. Boosting the thinking of adults can be done by engaging them in learning. For instance, trying to learn a new language would be a good exercise, which keeps the mind active, and the ability to imagine develops. Engaging in the training of new activities is also good for boosting the thinking process. Computer games can also keep older people’s minds active, hence boosting thinking.


Cognitive development is a process that continuously takes place until the time of death of a person. It involves the development of different areas such as the development of thinking ability, memory, and language. Thinking is a process that is different in various age groups. The way young children think is different from how adults do. Adulthood is the climax of the thinking process. Adults’ minds can think more intensely than children’s or older people’s minds. However, there are means to boost thinking among children and the elderly such as making use of exercises and video games.


Feigenson, L., Dehaene, S. & Spelke, E. (2004). Core Systems of Numbers. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8, 307-314.

Ness, D. & Stephen, J. F. (2007). Knowledge under Construction: The Importance of Play in Developing Children’s Spatial and Geometric Thinking. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Ormrod, J. (2012). Essentials of Educational Psychology: Big Ideas to Guide Effective Teaching. Boston: Pearsons Education Inc..

Schater, G. & Wegner. (2009). Psychology. New York: Worth Publications.

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