Development psychology is a field focused on the examination of how people’s way of thinking and behaving changes throughout their life. Contemporary development psychology is focused on lifespan development rather than child development only, which provides many opportunities for researchers and practitioners to develop strategies of continuous learning. Since a person’s development is affected by a variety of factors, it is essential to create a cohesive model that explains how an infant develops cognitively, physically, and emotionally to create a beneficial environment.
For this self-reflection, I decided to focus on the issue of cognitive development, utilizing Piaget’s theory. This aspect of developmental psychology is the most interesting for me because my career and personal goal are to enable lifelong learning, and by examining this theory and the stages of cognitive development, I will be able to explain how people’s cognition changes over time. Moreover, by applying this theory into practice, I will be able to ensure lifelong learning for myself. This paper will explore the question of cognitive development using examples from my adolescent years to illustrate Piaget’s theory.
Theory of Developmental Psychology
Out of the different theories and views on human development, for me, the most interesting domain of developmental psychology is the branch of cognitive development. By definition, developmental psychology is a field that aims to study and describe the different areas of development – biosocial, cognitive, and phycological (Berger, 2018). This knowledge is valuable because it helps improve the teaching and learning practices and explains some of the critical milestones that each individual undergoes over the course of their life.
An individual’s development is affected by a plethora of factors, making it a very complex topic. As Berger (2018) states, ” developmental psychologists recognize that growth is multidirectional, multidisciplinary, multi contextual, multicultural, and plastic” (p. 9). Notably, different environmental, cultural, and biological factors may interfere with an individual’s development. However, Kline et al. (2018) note that research in developmental psychology is mainly conducted using wealthy Western populations, which does not allow to fully comprehend the differences in people’s surroundings that may play a role in their development. This self-reflection paper addresses this issue by including personnel experience and connecting it to the theory, in this case, the focus is on Piaget’s cognitive development.
Piaget’s Cognitive Development Model
Children interact with the environment and develop a cognitive model of the world. This premise is the basis of Piaget’s model, which outlines how biological maturation and a child’s interactions with their environment. According to Piaget’s model, there are four key stages of a person’s cognitive development (Girgis et al., 2018). When comparing my cognition right now and the ways I perceived information five or ten years ago, I understand that there is a significant difference. Clearly, a child or an adolescent does not possess as much knowledge or experience as an adult. However, it is interesting to trace personal cognitive development and understand how a person develops an ability to think logically. Prior to Piaget’s work, the idea that children were less competent compared to adults, which explained their wrong answers to logical questions, prevailed (McLeod, 2018). However, research has shown that all individuals are born with a primary mental structure that is then developed with subsequent learning.
Stages of Cognitive Development
In the first stage, the sensory-motor intelligence begins to develop. Typically, this stage lasts until an infant is two years old, and is it is characterized by a child’s lack of separation between themselves and their outside environment (Kallio, 2020). Here, they use reflexes and use actions to develop knowledge about different objects. For example, children play with toys and develop an understanding of these objects. Object performance or the knowledge that a particular object exists is the central characteristic of this stage (McLeon, 2018).
The second stage is the preoperational stage, where a child develops an understanding of symbols that represent objects in real life. This stage describes the cognitive development of people from the age of two until the age of seven, and the critical element is the ability to think symbolically (Kallio, 2020). The third stage, or the concrete operational stage, is the establishment of cognition from the age of seven until eleven (McLeon, 2018). Here, a child begins to think logically, which makes this stage essential for further development. Finally, the fourth stage is referred to as the formal operation stage. It explains the development of individuals aged eleven and older, as well as adolescents and adults (McLeon, 2018). The essential characteristic of this stage is the complete development of logical thinking and the ability to reflect on concepts and hypotheses.
In order to adequately explain Piaget’s theory, I will use my personal example and relevant information from my life. Erik Eriksson defines adolescence as the ages from thirteen to nineteen and twenty to forty years as early adulthood (Berg, 2018). In Piaget’s theory, this age refers to the formal operation stage, the final stage of cognitive development. From the ages of thirteen to nineteen, I was focused on my academic success at school. An excellent example of this theory is a memory from elementary school when my older sibling was studying for a physics class, and I asked him to give me his textbook because I was interested in what he was doing. I remember that I read a paragraph about the reflection of light and not being able to comprehend the concepts explained in the textbook. After talking to my sibling, I realized that for him understanding this theory is easy because “it is based on logic,” while for me, it was impossible to imagine. Several years later, when I studied this topic, I also could not understand why the ideas in the textbook made no sense to me at the age of six.
Piaget’s interest in the way people acquire knowledge is notable because, in this example, from the sixth grade, one can trace the necessity of structuring learning material based on a child’s developmental capabilities. Children in elementary school comprehend information differently, and an educator will be unable to explain abstract complex hypotheses and theories to them. Piaget’s theory is especially helpful when teaching children because it emphasizes the establishment of models that enable thinking. Piaget focused on the importance of experience in the learning process. For example, a child learns by touching objects, such as wooden play blocks, which allows them to develop a cognitive structure of these objects.
Biosocial and Phycological Development
Of course, cognitive development is only one of the three elements that describe the way a person changes in their adolescent and adulthood years. Biosocial and phycological development is essential, and the theorists and practitioners developed theories to explain these elements as well. The theory of biosocial development is based on the concept that a person’s genes determine some of their predispositions, for example, towards certain mental illnesses, which can develop under environmental stimuli (Berg, 202). In terms of biosocial development, adolescents, myself included, undergo puberty, which is a period between the first hormone surge and the wholesome physical development. During this period, individuals experience significant physical changes. Moreover, the surge of hormones can affect thoughts, emotions, and behavior. For me, the years of adolescence were perhaps the most stressful because of the physical changes I experienced. For some time, I had body image issues, connected mainly to the way the increase in weight preceded the growth in height. Reflecting on these years, I understand that biosocial development, in this case, the physical changes in my body, significantly impacted my psychological well-being.
In terms of physiological development, the adolescent years for me were characterized by exploration and the need to understand myself and my purpose and values. This is consistent with Damon’s theory of moral purpose as people unconsciously try to explore their limits and try different behaviors (Kallio, 2020). At this time, I began to explore the ideas of social justice and other theoretical and practical frameworks that relate to social life. Later on, during my adult years, I focused mainly on networking and making connections with people. This is also consistent with the psychosocial development of adults.
Overall, this paper examined the field of phycology titled “developmental psychology,” which outlines the different domains of a person’s development from a young age. Specifically, the paper focuses on Piaget’s theory of cognitive development because it is one of the essential models for understanding the way cognition develops over the years. Piaget’s theory is critical because it explains that children perceive information differently when compared to adults, and they do not form an ability to think logically until the age of seven. The personal experience discussed in this paper is relevant because it is an example of how the same information is perceived differently at different stages of development. In this paper, I explained my experience with learning complex concepts as an adult and as a child to illustrate Piaget’s model. Piaget’s theory helps me understand how I can engage in lifelong learning in my adulthood, creating new opportunities in the future for me.
Berger, K. S. (2018). Developing person through childhood and adolescence. Macmillan.
McLeoud, S. (2018). Web.
Girgis, F., Lee, D., Goodarzi, A., & Ditterich, J. (2018). Toward a neuroscience of adult cognitive developmental theory. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 12, 1-10. Web.
Kallio, E. (Ed.). (2020). Development of adult thinking. Routledge.
Kline M., Shamsudheen, R., & Broesch T. (2018). Variation is the universal: Making cultural evolution work in developmental psychology. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 373(1743), 5-10. Web.