Section 2, Article 2 - In infancy, cognitive development cannot be discussed without considering the work of Jean Piaget. Although other theories have come along since Piaget, he was the pioneer in this field of study. Prior to Piaget’s work, it was assumed that children were either unable to think or were less skilled in thinking than adults. In contrast, this theorist indicated that children’s thinking processes were not inferior but simply different from that of adults. While observing his own children, Piaget developed a comprehensive theory asserting that children undergo cognitive changes based on time and experience. He proposed that the process of cognitive development involves four age-related stages.
The first stage that Piaget described is . He proposed that infants structure their thinking processes by using sensory input and their developing motor skills. Sensorimotor intelligence begins at birth with reflexive action, and it grows throughout the first 2 years of life. This type of intelligence is divided into six stages, and the first 2 stages are known as . These include both stage one (birth to 1 month) and stage two (1 to 4 months), in which the infants’ interactions are solely with themselves. The second 2 stages of include stage three (4 to 8 months) and stage four (8 to 12 months); these stages focus on the infants’ interactions with objects and other people. The final two stages of involve the following stages: stage five (12 to 18 months) and stage six (18 to 24 months). These stages include young children’s interactions with their environments, and it is a time of active exploration and experimentation. While Piaget is recognized for his work in understanding infants’ and children’s cognitive abilities, not all of his ideas are universally accepted. Critics of his theory take issue with the fact that many of his observations were based on a very, very small sample — that is, his own children. Second, most of Piaget’s ideas were based on very simple methods of investigation, such as observation of behavior.
Modern technology provides tools that allow us to look directly into children’s brains rather than simply judging cognitive activity based on external actions (). The concept of is used to identify children’s cognitive capabilities long before speech or motor skills might allow them to respond. For example, this idea can be used to determine if a young child is able to recognize differences in numbers. MRI and fMRI technology is used to look inside children’s brains to assess their cognition. These advances in medical technology have aided the discovery that children are capable of performing many of the cognitive tasks described by Piaget but long before he thought possible (; ).