We all have memories of our favorite subjects in school or how hard it was to learn certain subjects. We also have memories of growing up with family and friends as well as the milestones that have happened in our lives. But there are several things that although we have learned them, can not remember how. These types of things just seem natural, however from time to time we ponder how and when did we learn the things that we know. This paper describes and explains the study of how we learn. The paper also discusses the milestones of how we learn and how observations can help in diagnosing problems in learning.
What is Cognitive Psychology?
[Cognitive psychology is the scientific investigation of human cognition, that is, all our mental abilities – perceiving, learning, remembering, thinking, reasoning, and understanding. The term “cognition” stems from the Latin word “ cognoscere” or “to know”. Fundamentally, cognitive psychology studies how people acquire and apply knowledge or information.] (Lu & Dosher, 2007). The study of cognitive psychology began with the philosopher, Aristotle with a study named the “De Memoria”. The modern day version of cognitive psychology began in the 1950’s and is based on two assumptions.
The first assumption is that [human cognition can at least in principle be fully revealed by the scientific method, that is, individual components of mental processes can be identified and understood. The second assumption of cognitive psychology states, that the internal mental processes can be described in terms of rules or algorithms in information processing models.] (Lu & Dosher, 2007). Cognitive development starts at infancy and has several stages up to adulthood.
Stages of Cognitive Development
Cognitive development starts as soon as we exit the womb and has been studies by several psychologists, philosophers, and scientists. The study or understanding of cognitive development was not truly understood until the psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980) created a theory based on his observations of a variety of children, including his own in normal surroundings. Piaget’s theory was first publicized in the 1950s and described the reactions of children when faced with certain experiences that happened to them. Piaget believed that it was a better approach than experiments that were created in a laboratory and that he would be able to observe as well as learn about a more realistic reaction. He imagined what a child’s thoughts might be based on their previous experiences and how those experiences would help to react to or learn about new ones.
Piaget’s observations led to the discovery of four milestone stages at which humans learn. The first stage starts at infancy and is called the sensorimotor stage. At the sensorimotor stage, knowledge is shown through movement and is mainly based as well as developed through physical contacts and/or experiences. Memories and language abilities are beginning to form as well as mobility.
The second stage of cognitive development occurs during toddlerhood and early childhood. This stage is referred to as the pre-operational stage. During this time, symbols begin to play a more important role in the learning process and thinking is illogical and cannot be disputed. Egos are beginning to emerge and generally dominates the thinking process. The use of language, memory, imagination is increasing and continuously developing during the pre-operational stage.During this time, symbols begin to play a more important role in the learning process and thinking is illogical and cannot be disputed. Egos are beginning to emerge and generally dominates the thinking process. The use of language, memory, imagination is increasing and continuously developing during the pre-operational stage.
The third stage begins as students begin school and continues through early adolescence. In this stage, called the concrete operational stage, knowledge is based on systematic influences and logic, especially in the areas of measurement such as area and volume. Operational thinking develops (mental actions that are reversible). Egocentric thought diminishes.
The final phase happens during early adulthood and continues until adulthood. It’s called the formal operational stage and is when knowledge is exhibited “through the logical use of symbols related to abstract concepts. Early in the period there is a return to egocentric thought.” (Wells)
Problems associated with cognitive development?
In addition to stages of cognitive development, there are sub-domains that parents, teachers, and doctors continually observe to ensure that children are developing at a normally. These sub-domains include: “human perception, attention, learning, memory, concept formation, reasoning, judgment and decision-making, problem solving, and language processing.” (Lu & Dosher, 2007). When one or more of the sub-domains or stages of cognitive development is delayed, children are carefully watched for signs of cognitive impairment. “Cognitive impairment is the general loss or lack of development of cognitive abilities, particularly autism and learning disabilities.” (Wells) According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), cognitive impairment can disrupt a persons’ power to explain how they [see and hear or to link information from different parts of the brain. These limitations can show up in many ways, such as specific difficulties with spoken and written language, coordination, self-control, or attention. Such difficulties extend to schoolwork and can impede learning to read or write or to do math. A child who has a learning disability may have other conditions, such as hearing problems or serious emotional disturbance.] (Wells)
Cognitive psychology helps us to understand how humans learn and thinks. It has been around since the time of Aristotle and been modernized by Piaget to help parents, teachers, administrators, and doctors to education students. Cognitive psychology has also help to determine developmental problems that may effect the learning. Signs of cognitive development problems generally occur when children are around three years old however can occur at anytime, therefore parents should educate themselves on problems associated with cognitive development as well as the next steps to take when a problem surfaces.
- Lu, Z and Dosher, B. A. (2007). “Cognitive psychology.” Scholarpedia, 2(8):2769. Retrieved August 30, 2014 from http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Cognitive_psychology
- Wells, K. (n.d.). Children’s Health. Retrieved August 31, 2014, from http://www.healthofchildren.com/C/Cognitive-Development.html