Skip to main content

The American Psychological Association explains cognitive psychology as “the branch of psychology that explores the operation of mental processes related to perceiving, attending, thinking, language, and memory, mainly through inferences from behavior.” Child development psychologist Jean Piaget developed the first cognitive psychology theories in the 1930s from his work with infants and young children. He suggested an alternative theory to behaviorism, which was the prevailing psychological theory at the time. Behaviorists (psychologists who study behavior) and behavioral theory placed sole focus on behaviors that could be observed externally and hypothesized that these behaviors were the result of a subject’s interaction with external events and actions. Whereas Piaget focused on mental processes that occurred internally. Further, Piaget suggested that the way children think is fundamentally different from the way that adults think. Through his research he observed that young children were largely incapable of expressing complex motives, feelings, and thoughts, as their brains had not fully developed the capability of abstract thought. The following three major assumptions about children informed Piaget’s work: 

  1. Children construct their own knowledge in response to their experiences: According to Piaget, knowledge construction is developed overtime through the dynamic process of active engagement with the environment. As explained by Human Development Traditional and Contemporary Theories, “it occurs through the exploration of the objects (and later, the ideas) in the environment, using existing schema (organized action and mental connections).” 
  2. Children learn things on their own without influence from older children or adults: Piaget believed that learning proceeded by the interplay of assimilation (solving new experiences using existing schemata) and accommodation (changing existing schemata to solve new experiences) not only led to short-term learning, but also promoted long-term developmental change.
  3. Children are intrinsically motivated to learn and do not need rewards to motivate learning: Intrinsic motivation refers to the “stimulation that drives adopting or changing behavior for personal satisfaction or fulfillment. Such motivation drives an individual to perform an activity for internal reasons that are personally satisfying, as opposed to being motivated extrinsically – that is, by the prospect of obtaining some external reward…” Through mastery, for example, a child experiences a feeling of efficacy, which is an intrinsic motive.

Further Information and Support

For most of us, life can be very stressful, leading us to feel emotionally charged, which can cause anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and getting stuck in a cycle of being burdened with negative thoughts. Navigating through the challenges and emotional turmoil of life can be overwhelming, but you do not have to go through it alone. Engage Treatment is a Joint Commission Accredited professional psychological practice. We specialize in treating children, teens, and young adults struggling with depression and anxiety through community-focused treatment plans that incorporate a carefully selected combination of therapeutic interventions. Our compassionate, multidisciplinary practitioners are devoted to providing the highest quality of care that helps ignite positive change and enables clients to reach optimal health and well-being. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We are happy to answer questions and provide you with any additional information. Feel free to call us at 805-497-0605 or email us at [email protected]. You are also welcomed to get in touch by filling out our contact form. We look forward to connecting and having the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to support you.

Leave a Reply

Back to top