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The paper aims to take a closer look at the process of cognitive development that occurs during the life cycle. Through the study of this topic, the paper aims to explain clearly the subject and its precise meaning. The paper, in particular, focuses on two individuals namely Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget. The theories of these two academics on the subject (for instance, cognitive development) are researched and analyzed to give the reader a better perception of their ideas, in order to enable them to compare and contrast the two ideologies. Both scientists divide the cognitive development process into various stages where a number of things take place involving an individual’s psychological and emotional maturity. Through the study of these two men, one can get a deeper knowledge of the cognitive development process.
The development of an individual takes place in various stages and elements of a person to bring about a full transformation from childhood to adulthood. Though the physical aspects may be the most visible changes that can be observed in an individual, they are not necessarily the most essential of all the processes that take place. The psychological and emotional development processes that take place in individuals take up that mantle. The development of the mind of a person is the most essential element that determines the outcome evolving into adulthood. It is due to this reason that the subject of cognitive development has become a curious subject over the world, as people try to uncover the mysteries that are involved in this internal process. Cognitive development can be described as a subject that focuses on the neurological development process of a child that entails processing of information, learning of languages, attainment of skill, and other brain functions that are involved during this development. This is in turn compared to that of an adult so that to determine the progress that takes place as well as the main differences that may be present (Crain, 2011).
Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget are two individuals, who have studied the processes involved in cognitive development. They have both been able to arrive at conclusions that divide the process into a number of different stages. The stages are categorized based on the various elements that take place, which are essential to the child’s growth. These theories have enabled individuals to get a better perception of the overall process that takes place during this development (Crain, 2011).
Jean Piaget’s Theory
The basis of Piaget’s theory on cognitive development states that individuals move through a number of stages that enhance the complexity of their thinking process, as the person continues to progress.
Piaget’s argument was that reality involved two conditions namely transformation and state. Transformation was referred to as all the various changes that individual/object was able undergo while state was defined as the condition that the individual or object could be found in between the transformation. A good example of this would be the change of shape as a liquid was transferred from one container to another or a change in the characteristics of a person as they get older in life (Schmieg, 2010).
Thus, Piaget argued that if it was to be considered that the intelligence of a human was adaptive then it would provide for both stages of reality (for instance, transformation and state). He claimed that operational intelligence was in charge of the transformational aspects involved while figurative intelligence was responsible for static side of aspects. Operational intelligence can be defined as all the actions that an individual undertakes, as a result of the transformational aspects that are taking place in his/her life. On the other hand, figurative intelligence involved the static aspects of the individual such as imagery, perception, language and imitation (Schmieg, 2010).
Thus, Piaget believed that states did not exist independently, but were connected by the transformations that take place, and thus argued that the figurative aspects of the intelligence obtained its meaning from the operative aspects that are present intertwining the two conditions (Schmieg, 2010).
Assimilation and accommodation were other aspects that were identified by Piaget through the study of education in individuals (Schmieg, 2010). Assimilation is a process that refers to the way that humans are able to react to new information i.e. in terms of not only perceiving but adapting to it, as well (Schmieg, 2010). It occurs when an individual is faced with new information, and they refer to past-learned knowledge, in a bid to make sense of the new one. Accommodation refers to the process whereby individuals take the new information that they have received and alter their own train of thought so as to include this new bit of knowledge (Schmieg, 2010). Piaget argues that these two functions are not able to exist without one another as to assimilate an object into the schema of an individual’s mental capacity one will have to accommodate it at various lengths as well (Schmieg, 2010).
Erik Erikson took on a more psychological perspective when studying this subject and claimed that an individual moves through total eight stages from childhood to adulthood that took them through this process. He stated that when the individual did not efficiently master these stages a number of complications might arise as a result and, therefore, it was important that a person got a good grasp on the various stages that took place in order for a full and complete uninhibited development to take place (Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc., 2011).
The various stages that were named as the “Eight stages of man” by Erikson included (Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc., 2011):
Will – This is the first stage in the development process and occurs in the early stages of a child’s life. The child learns to assert their will over things with guidance from their parents, which slowly gives them an aspect of autonomy as they go along, making them able to solve the problems they come across on their own. The failure to achieve this may result in the development of shame and rise of doubts in the child (Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc., 2011).
Purpose – This is the next stage and involves the child putting his actions to a particular purpose in order to receive a desired result. The outcome of this stage is the development of the initiative from the children as they learn to go after what they want. However, guilt may affect the child when the desired purpose is not achieved at times.
Competence – This is an important stage as it helps the individuals to become a personality as they learn to achieve things with a degree of success. This brings about industriousness in the individual but can also result in a feeling of inferiority if the stage is not properly grasped.
Fidelity – In this stage, the individuals may ask themselves questions such as who they really are and what their plans in life are, as they search for an identity that they can relate to. Therefore, failure at this stage may result in confusion of roles (Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc., 2011).
Love – In this stage, the individual learns the values of intimacy between individuals and is a particular essential stage because if not grasped can lead to the feeling of isolation for the child.
Care – In this stage, the individuals learn to care for other people as is concerned on their behalf. The person aims to be more productive to the society in this stage and failure at this point could lead to stagnation (Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc., 2011).
Wisdom – This is the last part of the development process, since an individual grows older and has time to look back at the various accomplishments in life. This creates a sense of integrity for the ego if one is satisfied with him/herself, but it could lead to despair if one is not happy with the achievements in his/her life (Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc., 2011). This is a common sequel for people who feel they did not do anything of worth in life. Such feelings can lead to the creeping up of feelings of despair and hopelessness in life.
Retrospection - This retrospection in ones life that occurs at this stage will determine whether an individual is satisfied with his/her life or not and is usually dependent on the goals that have been achieved by the person over the years (Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc., 2011).