Vygotsky vs. Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development in Terms of Nature vs. Nurture Thesis

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Vgotsky v. Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development in Terms of Nature v. Nurture

What is more influential to our cognitive development, the nature of our own minds or the nurture we receive through our cultural world around us? This basic question has been the source of great debate within the field of psychology for generations. Proponents of a more biological perspective, like Jean Piaget, posit the idea that yes the external world does provide stimulus that influences development, but that it is the biological construct of the mind which has systems for adapting to that external world that most influences development of cognitive thought and processes. On the other hand, supporters of a stronger cultural influence, like Lev Vygotsky, believe that the human mind develops through manipulating the cultural and historical contexts in which it is brought up into. Together, these theories present a basic divide in theoretical thought explaining the way the human mind develops into the intensely abstract and complicated mechanism that it is.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Thesis on Vygotsky vs. Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development in Terms of Nature vs. Nurture Assignment

The biological construction of human psychological development presents a strong argument that it is nature which is most influential in the developmental processes that regulate our growing cognition. As one of the most popular theorists within the realm, Jean Piaget presents a strong case for a universal biological development separated into concrete stages. Piaget's concept of cognitive development does not rule out the influence of the external world around us, for "it is hard to envisage a complete theoretical discourse adequately accounting for the social formation of mind which floats free from the material conditions provided by both history and biology," (Daniels 2005:24). However, his theories present the case that those external stimuli are incorporated into the human mind through a very concise process that happens universally across cultural boundaries. According to the ideas of Piaget, we have innate biological responses to adapt to external influences. Thus culture plays a role in influencing us, but it is essentially our biological ability to react and adapt to those influences that affects development. This development is then a universal process which happens in concrete stages within the minds of all human; "There are relatively fixed and predictable reflexes embedded," (Piaget Inhelder 1999:6). Thus, Piaget presents the idea that it is a crucial element of the human mind to adapt through assimilation and accommodation to the world around us.

Adaptation through assimilation and accommodation is universal and is a process found in all developing individuals. According to research, the process represents the "structures of ordering and assembling that constitute a substructure for the future operations of thought," (Piaget Inhelder 1999:13). We absorb the external world around us through individual stimuli that are then processed through concise psychological structures within the human mind. In this concept, "every acquisition, from the simplest to the most complex, is regarded as a response to external stimuli," (Piaget Inhelder 1999:5). The child takes in external stimuli through assimilation. That absorbed external stimuli then may force the child to change their perception methods to assimilate the new stimuli into their mind. This is how the nature of behavior and our conception of the world are formed through extended periods of time where more and more stimuli is absorbed and assimilated into the structures of the mind. In the process of assimilation, "the reality data are treated or modified in such a way as to become incorporated into the structure of the subject," (Piaget Inhelder 1999:5). Thus, the subject is constantly in a state of absorption and reformation to accommodate for the factual existence of new emerging stimuli that would not fit into previously established conceptions of the world and how it works. Thus, new objects and ideas are re-worked into the mind, "every newly established connection is integrated into an existing schematism," (Piaget Inhelder 1999:5). Thus, the very first habits of the infant are produced through the system of constantly assimilating and accommodating for new objects and ideas as the infant begins to experience more of the foreign external world. When the infant first feeds from the mother, it is a strenuous and long process before the infant begins to realize the basic nature of that process. Through constant exposure to that stimulus, the infant begins to assimilate the process and forms the habit of sucking which makes feeding easier. Piaget states that assimilation is the beginning of all habits, "This makes it impossible to regard the reflex as a pure automatism and also accounts for later extensions of the reflex scheme and for the formation of the first habits," (Piaget Inhelder 1999:7). After a processor object is first assimilated into the developing mind, it is then used to help reconstruct a more realistic nature of the mind which exists alongside that external stimulus. Accommodation represents the differences made after new stimuli are assimilated into the cognitive storage of the mind. According to Piaget's logic, "the stimulus is filtered through a structure that consists of action-schemes (or at a higher level, the operations of thought), which in turn are modified and enriched when the subject's behavioral repertoire is accommodated to the demands of reality," (Piaget Inhelder 1999:6). Thus, the structure of the mind is constantly being reworked to account for the existence of new emerging stimuli. The process of accommodation represents "the modification of internal schemes to fit reality," (Piaget Inhelder 1999:6). This is how the biology of the structure of the mind incorporates foreign influences. These influences exist, yet it is the process of accommodating for them which is a stronger influence on psychological and cognitive development.

Once more and more stimuli are absorbed into the framework of the developing mind, it is key that the individual uses various systems of classification to organize those external influences coming into the mind. The human mind organizes all these new experiences of reality to help give a more realistic construction of the world, "It organizes reality by constructing the broad categories of action which are the schemes of the permanent object, space, time, and causality substructures of the notions that will later correspond to them," (Piaget Inhelder 1999:13). First, classification is limited, for there are a limited number of schemes within the mind of an infant or young toddler. Yet, as more and more of the world is experienced through childhood, children can then make broader categorizations based on more elements. This is based on the larger accommodations of more complex stimuli.

The basic fundamental elements of Piaget's theory is the universality of this system of assimilating and accommodating, as well as how this process changes through concrete and systematic stages that are present within all individuals. According to Piaget, there are concrete stages that are universal to all humans, showing the dominance of biological factors in the development of human cognition. The first universal stage is the sensory-motor stage which occurs between birth and two years of age. In this stage, the infant begins to differentiate the self from objects and acts intentionally to serve a certain purpose. This stage is also the birth of the idea of object permanence, in which the growing infant begins to realize that objects exist even if they are not in plain sight. Thus, objects can exist independently from the infant, "The conservation of the object is, among other things, a function of its localization; that is, the child simultaneously learns that the object does not cease to exist when it disappears and he learns where it does go," (Piaget Inhelder 1999:16). This is an important realization, for it exposes the infant to the knowledge that there is a whole vast unknown world and prepares the mind for thinking abstractly later in development. The second stage is that of the pre-operational, which occurs between the ages of two to seven years old. In this there is the development of language as an expression of thoughts and representation of objects. Children learn to express themselves through language and therefore have stronger tools to achieve ultimate ends. Yet, thinking is still egocentric in this stage, the child is the center of the universe, and nothing happens independently outside the mind and world of the child. According to research, children are not able to see other's points-of-view clearly. In the concept of egocentrism, "the child's initial universe is entirely centered on his own body and action in egocentrism," (Piaget & Inhelder 1999:13). Thus, there is little empathy for the feelings of others, because the child has not yet learned to experience the fact that others feel and think just like they do. Also in this stage, classification of objects is still limited. Based on limited experience, children are likely to categorize objects by one category only, not understanding that one singular object can actually have a multitude of innate characteristics. This represents the child in a limited state of experience. However, this stage eventually develops further into the concrete operational stage between seven and eleven years old. This stage witnesses the development of logical thinking, where reason is used to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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