Cognitive Development

According to Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, intelligence is the basic mechanism of ensuring equilibrium in the relations between the person and the environment. This is achieved through the actions of the developing person on the world. At any moment in development, the environment is assimilated in the schemes of action that are already available and these schemes are transformed or accommodated to the peculiarities of the objects of the environment plus of the surroundings and entire universe, if they are not completely appropriate.

Thus, the development of intelligence is a continuous process of assimilations and accommodations that lead to increasing expansion of the field of application of schemes, increasing coordination between them, increasing interiorization, and increasing abstraction. The mechanism underlying this process of increasing abstraction, interiorization, and coordination is reflecting abstraction. That is, reflecting abstraction gradually leads to the rejection of the external action components of sensorimotor operations on objects and to the preservation of the mental, planning or anticipatory, components of operation. These are the mental operations that are gradually coordinated with each other, generating structures of mental operations. These structures of mental operations are applied on representations of objects rather than on the objects themselves. Language, mental images, and numerical notation are examples of representations standing for objects and thus they become the object of mental operations. Moreover, mental operations, with development, become reversible. For instance, the counting of a series of objects can go both forward and backward with the understanding that the number of objects counted is not affected by the direction of counting because the same number can be retrieved both ways.[7] Piaget described four main periods in the development towards completely reversible equlibrated thought structures. These are the periods described below. As shown below, for Piaget intelligence is not the same at different ages. It changes qualitatively, attaining increasingly broader, more abstract, and more equilibrated structures thereby allowing access to different levels of organization of the world.

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