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GIBSON, E. , & WALK, R. D. (1960). The visual cliff. Scientific American, 202, 64–71. Original coverage of this important study. 3 cognitive development Core areas • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Accommodation Animistic thinking Assimilation Centration Compensation Concrete operation Conservation Class inclusion tasks Classification Disequilibrium Egocentrism Enactive stage Equilibrium Formal operation General symbolic function Iconic stage Information processing approach • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Internalisation Intuitive stage Object permanence Operations Pre-conceptual stage Pre-operational stage Primary circular reactions Reversibility Scaffolding Schemata Secondary circular reactions Sensorimotor stage Seriation Symbolic mode Syncretic reasoning Theory of mind Transductive reasoning Zone of proximal development Learning outcomes By the end of this section you should be able to: • define the key terms outlined above and understand in which cognitive theory they belong; • acknowledge and describe each of the theories on cognitive development including those of Piaget, Bruner, Vygotsky, theory of mind and the information processing approach; • evaluate the theories using research studies such as the Swiss mountain experiment and false belief tasks, for example; • discuss the weaknesses of the theories and how they can be compared and contrasted.

When the screen was removed, all 4-year-olds reverted to their pre-screening answer but all the others stuck to the answers given while the screen was in place. Finally, in the post-test situation two standard beakers and a taller, thinner one were used (without a screen); the 4-year-olds were unaffected by having seen the beakers screened, although the success rate of the 5–7-year-olds rose. Such results supported Bruner, because they showed that when a child’s speech was activated by having them ‘say’ their judgement when the screen was covering the liquid levels (symbolic mode) it prevented iconic mode domination, although this could only be applied once cognitive maturation occurred at approximately 5 years.

This stage is also important for the development of the general symbolic function, that is, the use of mental images, words and other symbols to represent the world. Pre-operational stage (2–7 years) – in this stage the child is still largely influenced by the way objects look/how they seem, rather than by any particular logic. Piaget says that pre-operational children can do some things they were unable to do before 2 years, and that they engage in deferred imitation, symbolic play, drawing, mental imagery and use of language, all of which have a semiotic (symbolic) function.

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