Term Paper: Expertise Professional Development Requires Us

Pages: 10 (3086 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 17  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Psychology  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] At the beginning are hereditary organizations and instinctual drives that provide the affective base at birth and tie affect to the survival function of the first adaptive mechanisms. According to Piaget, however, these original affect systems like other sensory motor schemas become reorganized so as to conserve and stabilize affect over larger segments of time and space and coordinate it with other affects. In this way, at the preoperational stage, representation and language allow emotions to be manipulated in an internal and imaginary way, as in symbolic play, when the child can rehearse aspects of experience that seem frightening. During concrete operations, Piaget (1980) suggested that children learn common rules about the socially appropriate display of affect and show the beginning of feelings concerning morality. The focus on a world of should is even more pronounced in adolescence when individuals are able to relate to interpersonal systems of regulation. Individuals invest emotions in abstract and collective ideals and guide their behavior according to complex plans that involve wide extension across time and space (Stewart & Strathern, 2003, p. 51).

How do relatively simple cognitive-affective structures transform into complex ones related to complex goals and issues of self and identity? In his later work, Piaget (1980) extensively outlined such transformations in the cognitive realm, expanding on his earlier suggestions that transformations evolve as a result of an interplay of relatively reactive, equilibrium-maintaining and relatively proactive, equilibrium expanding (or dis-equilibrating) strategies. Each of those strategies involves a distinct way of relating to the world and processing information abstracted from it.

The interplay between equilibration and dis-equilibration is similar to the familiar interplay of strategies of assimilation and accommodation. When the individual functions in an "as usual" modality he or she is at equilibrium -- reality is structured, from both cognitive and affective perspectives, in a way that is familiar and self-evident. This self-evidence, to be sure, is not necessarily a reflective one but can be rather automatic and reactive, inherent in accustomed-to ways of responding that are integrated into the self. The individual then functions in an assimilative mode that affirms a reality that is already familiar and within one's conceptual reach -- that is, already has been schematized into a well-integrated cognitive-affective structure. At the same time, this integrative function implies that knowledge that has not yet been schematized is negated -- that is, gated out by being excluded from attention, or by being considered irrelevant or even faulty. This basic mode of functioning, then, is oriented towards keeping the self in a stable and inertial mode, maintaining associations that are familiar and close to the self. A control system of the kind just described is similar to a homeostatic system such as a thermostat that minimizes deviations from a set point. Such a system is called a feedback dampening or negative feedback system. This name derives from the fact that it acts to negate or reduce discrepancy, while affirming a particular set point or image of achievement through acting in such a way that the image of achievement is kept constant within a sufficiently small range of deviations (Koepsell, 2006).

An example is offered by the preoperational child who fails to conserve in the familiar beaker problem. The child focuses on a single perspective -- say, width -- of the beaker but in so doing gates out information relating to the second relevant dimension, height. Alternatively, she attends to the other perspective while gating out the former, without being able to consider the simultaneous transformations in both dimensions. However, at certain junctures of their development (and we will return to this issue immediately) individuals acknowledge the resulting errors in their own conceptual constructions. That is, they realize gaps in their knowledge, implying that familiar ways of organizing reality are being dis-equilibrated. Such dis-equilibration is not merely a passive process; rather, having grasped the implications of their gaps for possible expansion of their knowledge, individuals begin to actively drive away from equilibrium.

The active process of driving away from equilibrium implies that the individual shifts from a feedback-dampening mode to one that is aimed at amplification of affect and cognitive-affective information. The basic mode now is no longer affirmative and stability-maintaining, but an open one as the self actively turns to an exploration of novel information and associations. Such active dis-equilibration happens as individuals inhibit automated thoughts and behaviors and instead, begin a process of questioning, directed search, experimentation, and consequent revision of old schemas. This process of differentiation involves examining existing schemas and relating them to one's actions, to other schemas, and to new information in the external world. As a result of this process, individuals gradually create cognitive-affective schemas that are more differentiated, yet that involve many interconnections among the newly differentiated components.

Amplification can imply a degree of discomfort, conflict, or even crisis as the self ventures out into unexplored and unfamiliar territory -- congruent.

Modern psychology has placed increasing emphasis on problems of structure and organization of knowledge. Although there is no doubt that knowledge has organization, there are many differences about how to represent and study such organization.

The problem of representation has special interest in the domain of commonsense or intuitive physics, which is the primary concern of this chapter. Two quite different representations have been used in developmental studies. One may be seen in pioneering work by Inhelder and Piaget ( 1955 / 1958) and, more clearly, in Siegler ( 1976, 1981) applications of the problem solving theory of Newell and Simon ( 1972). A characteristic feature of Siegler's approach is one-dimensional reasoning. Although several physical dimensions may be relevant, children are ordinarily assumed to process them one at a time; except at the highest level of ability, which even few adults may attain, the physical stimuli are not integrated but processed by discrete choice rules. This non-integration representation assumes that the structure in the sequence of discrete choices mirrors the structure of knowledge.

The other representation stems from work on the theory of information integration. A characteristic feature of this approach is multidimensional judgment. Accordingly, this kind of representation focuses on the structure of the rules that govern the integration of stimulus information.


These two kinds of representation are quite different. Naturally enough, they have led to different kinds of experimental investigations. Instead of converging on common conclusions, however, each line of investigation has claimed good support for its preferred representation. This is disturbing because both claim to study the same knowledge structures.

A previous theoretical comparison raised questions about the validity and testability of the non-integration representation. Prior to the present experiments, however, there had been no systematic empirical comparisons of the integration and non-integration representations. The purpose of this chapter is to present such empirical comparisons. First, however, a review of the theoretical analysis is needed.


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