Cognitive theory is based on the grounds of the ideas that humans are able to feel a stimulus, perceive it and have the ability to reason and hence achieve a logical understanding of the environment around us. The learning encompasses through both learning and the genetic makeup (Plotnik, 2011). Cognitive development is a combination of the ways of information processing, ability to reason, intelligence ability and the ability to develop individuals’ memories’. The theory emphasizes on peoples’ beliefs, thought processes and actions making it an excellent predictor of the group and individual behaviors (Sweller, 2011). The cognitive theory focuses on what goes through an individual mind. It states supports the fact that learning is not only a change in behavior but a change how an individual thinks, feels or understands.
The following are the guiding principles of cognitive theory that we should keep in mind. First Learning takes time; since learning is not instantaneous we need to revisit thoughts and ideas before trying them out. Secondly, learning involves an active process that the learner uses sensory input that will aid in constructing meaning out of it. The learners should be creative because it involves them engaging with the world (Reichl, 2009).
Third, people learn as they learn the process of learning consists both of constructive system of meaning and constructing meaning. Thus, each meaning we construct in interactions makes us better and able digest and give meaning to other stimuli and sensations that fit a particular pattern. Moreover, the vital process of solving meaning take place in the mind. Thus, we are required to engage the both the mind and hands with activities. Another principle is that learning involves a language, when people interact they learn and improve their language.
Learning is a social activity, aspects of interaction, conversation and collaborations are significant to us as humans, since the process of learning is associated with socialization. Subsequently, learning is contextual we majorly learn in relative of what other things we know and we believe including fears and prejudices.
The principle of Existing knowledge, humans need knowledge to learn, it is impossible to assimilate knowledge without having some foundation structure developed from previous information to build on. The other principle states that motivation is the vital component in learning. It is provided by the achievement or promise of rewards. Positive motivation is significant to true learning. The following are the main contributors of the cognitive theory as we understand it today. They have vividly lined down their thoughts and arguments concerning the theory.
Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was amongst the early social psychologist to present an exhaustive research of cognitive theory. Piaget’s immense contribution included a description and research and findings of child development influenced by cognitive factors, a presentation of genius queries to initiate various mental capabilities and observational studies of cognition among children. It is essential to note that before Piaget’s work on cognitive theory, there was an all rounded thinking in social sciences that children were weak thinkers compared to older people. It was a turn around after Piaget proved that children are able to maneuver their thoughts different ways compared to adults. Piaget stated that kids after birth posses with the simple basic mental stature where all collective knowledge and learning is based (Kohler, 2008).
Piaget’s cognitive theory is distinct in the following ways; it is specifically pays more attention to kids ignoring every other learner. Secondly, it emphasizes on mental capability downplaying the process of acquiring new knowledge. The objectives of Piaget theory was to describe the creative hypothesis and stages systematically where the infants, then child, emerges to a person with the ability to think and reason using hypotheses. The following include components to Piaget’s cognitive theory. One is the Schemas; he called them as the vital foundation of creative and genius character. He cited the significance of existing knowledge in mental refinement since they are representation of the environment that assist to responding and understand to new or previous situations.
He stated that new born babies contain schemas before even though they have had so minimal ground to explore the environment. Secondly, Piaget defined knowledge yield as being a cycle of reshaping to the environment. In his citation, this process happens through; Assimilation, which involves referring to a previous schema to a different condition, Accommodation; that forms if the previous knowledge has sought replacement and Finally, Equilibrium; the force that directs the knowledge sharing sequence. The theory contain, the cognitive stages of development that include; Sensorimotor children from 0-2 years, their key feature being object permanence; Preoperational(2-7), who are egocentric; Concrete operational(7-11), who are conservationists and Formal Operational(11 and above), who are able to manipulate ideas and thoughts.
Piaget ideas and thoughts have been so relevant and practical in communicating to and understanding children particularly in the field of education also referred to as discovery learning. Finally, the impact of Piaget’s ideas in developmental psychology has been significant. He totally changed the way people viewed children and methods of studying them. It is from his theory that a huge amount of research on the field of cognitive development has increased understanding.
Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934)
Lev Vygotsky became the foundation of the much theory and research referred to as social development theory. His theory stresses the crucial role of social interaction in the development of cognition. Unlike Piaget, who argued that development precede learning, Vygotsky pointed that social learning precede development. He developed a socio-cultural perspective to cognitive development (Veer, 2007).
He placed more emphasize on culture shaping and affecting cognitive development. Moreover, his more emphasize on social factors as contributing factors to cognitive development presented a distinct contrast with Piaget’s theory. Moreover, Vygotsky identifies the role of language in the cognitive development a section where Piaget was seriously criticized for lack of emphasizes.
Same as Piaget, Vygotsky believes that infants are born with the basic abilities for intellectual development. Vygotsky refers to elementary mental functions, including; attention, perception, memory and sensation. These are tools of intellectual adaptation that allow children to involve their mental functions more adaptively. He continues to view the tools of adaptation as relative from one culture to another. Furthermore, he employs what he refers to as collaborative dialogue that will aid children learn through social interaction with a tutor on board. The child will internalize the knowledge and information guiding him to regulate his own performance.
A contemporary application of Vygotsky theory is witnessed in the reciprocal teaching in learning institutions. In this process, both teachers and students are able to practice and learn four skills, clarifying, questioning, summarizing and predicting. Moreover, the theory is relevant to aspects such as apprenticeship; mode of learning in which an advanced peer assist a novice to work on it successfully.
Jerome Bruner, an American psychologist had his works on aspects of cognition, learning, perception and memory. He developed the discovery learning theory that points vital ideas about learning. He views learning as a continuous process in where students compose new concepts or ideas based on the current knowledge. Cognitive growth involves the interaction between vital human capabilities and culturally induced technologies that act as amplifiers of the above capabilities.
Bruner’s insists that a theory of instruction must address the following aspects; the nature of punishments and rewards, predisposition inclined towards learning, restructure of knowledge to be easily grasped by learners and best methods to present materials. His modes of representation include; Enactive (0-1year), concerned with encoding behavior based information. Iconic (1-6 years), here the information is stored in the form of pictures and images such as diagrams. The third is symbolic (7years and above), here the information is stored in the form of a symbol such as language. Symbols are easier to classify and manipulate.
He suggests that each learner even at an early age has the capability of learning different materials as long as the information is arranged in an appropriate manner; this is in contrast to both Piaget and Vygotsky theories. Bruner opposes Piaget perspective of readiness; he believes that a child of any age is truly capable of understanding complex information and knowledge.
Theory for mental process associated with learning
The vital issue that interests the cognitive psychology is the internal mechanism of the human processes of knowing and thoughts. Cognitive psychologists have tried to unravel answers to mental structures for example, what and how it is stored and the process of how retrieval and integration of information is operated. People, similarly to computers acquire information from the environment, memorize the information, retrieves back the information from memory and finally send the same information back to the environment. The brain integrates the nervous system which processes knowledge and information initially from the moment of input to the storage time in the long term memory. Next are the sensory registers that store the representation of the external environment until the information is transferred. The short term memory is often assumed as the conscious memory since it allows for knowledge to be interpreted, manipulated and formed. Finally, the long term memory allows for the unlimited storage of information. The processes of translating information from one stage to another include; pattern recognition or attention, retrieval and encoding.
The contemporary cognitive learning theory is based on social schemas in the attempt to explain how knowledge is stored perfectly in the long term memory. Piaget referred to schemas as the basic building foundations of intelligent behavior. It involves a way of organizing information relating to the aspects of the environment including actions, objects and concepts. It is believed that when person existing schemas are able of describing the environment around; it is collectively referred to as a state of equilibrium balance. Schemata consists an effective tool for understanding the world. Using schemas does not require complex thoughts but still people can create new perception automatically to act effectively without effort.
Permanent change in behavior
Cognitive behavioral theory states the role of cognition in predicting and determining behavioral patterns of a person. An individual’s forms permanent behavior through creating self concepts that affects the current behavior they display. The concepts can be both negative and positive depending on the environment. Through the cognitive behavioral therapy, it is simpler for a person to embrace knowledge and apply it to develop beliefs and retaining the information. It is here that the process is integrated with the personality of an individual. Personalities are in turn influenced by the environment, habitat and the lifestyle of an individual (Cervone, 2010). The cognitive behavior is typically influenced by the thoughts and perception developed over time on an individual’s personality.
Application of the cognitive theory can be seen in learning institutions such as schools. Where the knowledge passed to students is considered as necessary hence the attention and probability of learning increase. Moreover, in schools learners store knowledge in the long term memory in a systematic fashion for their understanding and consequently refine themselves by doing revisions in order to maximize retention. Social cognitive theory can be used in events such as AIDS awareness campaigns this can be of immense help by letting the victims identify with the recognizable peers, and will encompass a sense of self efficacy and in turn imitate the advocated actions in order to learn proper preventive actions against AIDS. Finally, in business, workers can be taken through a series of exposure for multiple environmental applications where they can be able to learn and apply the relevant information and use them in the company for the sake of production development. Events such as team building corporate social responsibility helps staff to adept to challenging situations and increases efficiency at work.
We are all unique as individual however, there are patterns that all humans follow. Children have specific benchmarks that they are supposed to attain by a certain age. These benchmarks are not limited to physical development but also include both cognitive and genetic development. Cognitive theories have brought a lot of positive findings and have gained popularity in both psychology and other subject areas in education.
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Kohler, R. (2008). Jean Piaget. London [u.a.: Continuum.
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Cervone, D., & Pervin, L. A. (2010). Personality: Theory and research. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Reichl, S. (2009). Cognitive principle, critical practice: Reading literature at university.
Göttingen, Niedersachs: V&R unipress
Sweller, J., Ayres, P., & Kalyuga, S. (2011). Cognitive Load Theory. New York, NY: Springer New York.