Cognitive Development

By Kyra Clark


Jean Piaget theorized that knowledge was based on experiences and that we learn through assimilation, incorporating new information and accommodation, changing to accommodate new information. According to Piaget, as you get older, you develop different abilities based on a system of schemas. At the sensorimotor stage, infants develop physical and verbal skills. During the pre-operational stage, language evolves, as well as imaginative thinking and memory. In this stage, which includes toddlers and small children, egocentric thinking is at it's highest. Then in the concrete operational stage, which goes up to early adolescents, operational thinking or reversible thinking is developed and egocentric thinking decreases. The final stage is the formal operational stage, which continues into adulthood. Not everyone experiences this stage, but those who do have a return in egocentric thinking.


Parents are very important in the early stages of cognitive development, as they have both an active role in helping further said development and in making sure there are no set backs. Through out infancy and toddler hood, a parents role is to play games that focus on the developmental stages that the child is in. This includes playing with toys, colors, reading and talking to the child to develop language skills.

When watching to make sure that the child is developing smoothly, it is important to focus on whether or not they achieve goals that they should have at that stage. For example, it would be a red flag if a 2 year old doesn't have the ability to speak in simple sentences or understand the use of everyday objects, as that is the age when language skills are expected to begin to advance and children should be using tools.


Adolescents see changes in capacity, as well as their function. Adolescents see increases in their working memory, along with verbal and spatial memory. This makes it easier to make decisions that involve multiple pieces of information, as well as remember information in the current moment.

Functional changes include changes in deductive reasoning and decision making. During adolescence, there are varying levels in the ability to make good decisions; there is no direct increase because of the fact that the older you are, the more knowledge you have. While some do make better decisions because of their ability to access the outcomes of a certain behavior, others are seen making poor decisions, due to strong emotions and increased risk taking, seen especially in older adolescents. The types of risks taken can vary be gender; for example, males are more likely to recklessly drive, whereas females are seen taking more health risks, like smoking.