New Trends in Conceptual Representation: Challenges to Piaget's Theory?

New Trends in Conceptual Representation: Challenges to Piaget's Theory?

New Trends in Conceptual Representation: Challenges to Piaget's Theory?

New Trends in Conceptual Representation: Challenges to Piaget's Theory?

Excerpt

This is a challenging time for students of cognitive development. In the late 1950s, there was one major theory of cognitive development, Jean Piaget's. No other theory of mental life was as detailed in its descriptions of diverse aspects of cognition, so rich in its provision of experimental tasks for studying children, and so integrative in its approach to explaining the hows, whys, and whens of development. However, as Piaget's research program gained wide currency, there were many empirical and theoretical challenges to it. First Piaget's constructivism occupies a middle ground between the reliance on socialization practices and reliance on innate constraints as explanations for the pace, direction, and ultimate outcome of cognitive growth. It is simple to argue that all behavior is learned and that its final shape is determined by the vagaries of different learning conditions. Empirical demonstrations of the acquisition of factual knowledge are not hard to obtain. It is similarly easy to claim all behavior is preformed, merely needing to be released under appropriate circumstances. Again there is enough uniformity in the sequence of development of physical characteristics and some cognitive skills and enough species differences to support that view. However, it is very difficult to insist the environment only has an impact when filtered through the person's schemes and to demonstrate that those schemes undergo systematic changes in ways not constrained from the beginning. There is a necessary sequence and yet the subject constructs that necessity. Secondly, Piaget's theory occupies a middle ground between two levels of explanation of psychological function. One looks at observable data and the other at idealized abstract formal behavior. Again it is comparatively easy to analyze what is needed to solve a particular task. It is much harder to specify the underlying principles that unite diverse tasks, although that analysis is made . . .

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