In comparison to other mammals living on this planet, we are seen as one of the most intelligent, when we consider our technological advancements over the millennium. We are also social beings, who crave attention, we long for interaction with others and the longing to belong to a group, Maslow’s fourth hierarchal need. Generally we also have moral values; we know the difference between right and wrong and are generally law abiding citizens. But are we always fixed to this perfect ideology and what can change our perspectives? How do we embrace change?
This essay will explore the dichotomy of “fixity” and “change” and to what extent the humanistic perspective is influence by either one. Sometimes referred to as “stability” and” adaptation” but nonetheless vital to mans hypothetical survival in the jungle of life. In this TMA we shall be analyzing three key areas; cognitive, we shall be looking at the changing phases of a child’s cognitive development, how an infant “adapts” learning through schema and how this intelligence “changes” and eventually “stabilizes” as we grow older.
We shall be looking at social interaction considering self awareness, interaction with others and bonding during the vehicle of play. Finally, we shall visit the moral component, we will be exploring reasoning, internal, external influence and what we understand as right and wrong and how this is “fixed” into our self. Piaget (1896-1980) was a leading researcher on child development. Piaget called his general theoretical framework “genetic epistemology” because he was primarily interested in how knowledge developed in human organisms.
The concept of cognitive structure is central to his theory. Cognitive structures are patterns of physical or mental action that underlie specific acts of intelligence and correspond to stages of child development known as schema or schemata. There are four primary cognitive structures (i. e. , development stages) according to Piaget: Sensory motor, pre-operational, Concrete operations, and Formal operations. In the Sensory motor stage (0-2 years), intelligence takes the form of motor actions. Intelligence in the pre-operational period (2-6 years) is intuitive in nature.
The cognitive structure during the Concrete operations stage (6-12 years) is logical but depends upon concrete referents. In the final stage Formal operations (over 12 years), thinking involves abstractions. In Piaget’s perspective the action patterns provide the first mental categories, or schema, through which infants organize the world that impinges on them (Gleitman, Fridlund and Reisberg, pg 548. 2001). Schema, function in isolation but in addition by the integration of cognitive structures through the process of adaptation and assimilation.
Assimilation involves the event to be interpreted in terms of an existing cognitive structure to make sense of the environment. Cognitive development through schema consists of a constant development effort to adapt to the environment in terms of assimilation and accommodation. Through development a child can develop and coordinate these individual actions into one unified exploratory schema. (Piaget, 1952). In this sense, Piaget’s theory is similar in nature to other constructivist perspectives of learning (e. . , Bruner, Vygotsky).
Piaget’s theory implies that adults demonstrate intellectual maturity as characterized by formal operational thought, and that there are no changes in the way we reason once we reach adolescence (Cooper and Roth, pg 53, 2003) Conversely Horn and Cattell (1967) found that older people do better than younger people on tasks that require experience, such as general knowledge, vocabulary and so on. This type of intelligence is called crystallized intelligence.
Kincheloe and Steinberg (1993) state that cognitive development isn’t a “fixed” innate dimension of human beings, it is always “changing” with the environment, always in the process of being reshaped and reformed. We are simply not victims of genetically “fixed”, cognitive dispositions. (Kincheloe and Steinberg, 1993, pg 300). We have seen that according to Piaget, children’s reasoning abilities “adapt” and develop with age but Piaget has offered no mechanism to explain how schema are altered through accommodation and what allows children to transform from one stage to another.
As we develop from childhood we create relationships some are fixed, i. e, vertical relationships having an attachment to someone with greater knowledge or social power like a parent or teacher. These relationships are created through “adaptations” characterized by the complementary roles. When we consider sibling relationships or similar peer group termed horizontal they are characterized by reciprocity and egalitarian interactions and expectations (Cooper and Roth, pg 8, 2001).
Play is a key part of a child’s development whether it has a role in cognitive or social development remains a cause for debate; however it has provided an area for research for psychologists over the years. Generally there are two trains of thought with play, firstly the child learns more about social skills and interpersonal relationships through play, but other social experiences are equally important in the development of a child’s social understanding. Vygotsky observed two sisters aged five and seven who decided to play at being sisters.
As they did so, their behavior changed dramatically from their normal rivalry sisterly conduct. It became stylized and self-conscious as they acted out stereo types of sisterhood roles. Vygotsky commented that the vital difference in play is that the child, in playing, tried to be a sister. (Cooper and Roth, pg 13, 2001). Another interesting concept that when a child embarks in play they can take up role play and using schema can act out and relate to the real world “playing army” or “driving a car”.
When we consider the categories of play and their definitions in the case of males of really any age, including adult hood. There is a boundary of “fixity” especially with electronic games either in associative or complementary play. Interestingly females don’t exhibit the same intensity that a 30 something male will exhibit whilst playing his games console in the company of his mates on a Saturday afternoon. Even once that male has children, the play is “stable” as they will interact with their own children and grandchildren.
The power of play is important and allows children to engage in social pretend play to hypothetically explore emotionally significant experiences with their peers and in the case of males this play can extend beyond young adulthood. Finally when we consider the subject of morality in the social world of children, initially it is “fixed” by the vertical relationships that exist between parent/child. Social behavior is taught, reinforced and “stabilized” in the family context “tidy up your room” “don’t tease your brother/sister” all these circumscribed commands are introduced in a narrow setting.
It is only when the child is exposed to school and playgroups that a larger social influence impinges on that child and that the child begins to “adapt” to that environment. When we consider horizontal relationships between peers, Harris (1999) held a controversial view that parents do not influence their children in the way that has been culturally assumed but it is the peer group that are the major determiners to how a child will develop and adapt to its social arena.
In this context we can see where children are open to change under the pretext of peer pressure and the longing for group acceptance. This may be the reasoning behind well brought up children breaking the law to be socially accepted within their groups. From our initial birth to our inevitable death, as human beings we are constantly developing, “adapting and reinforcing our own societal position. Some psychological theorists state, that in order to maintain this equilibrium of homeostasis, we must successfully move from one stage to another during our lifespan.
Considering Erikson’s eight stage development, he states, that our progress through each stage is in part determined by our success, or lack of success, in all the previous stages. Erikson sees the stages as fixed, whilst that individual is experiencing that developmental stage, i. e, adolescence is experienced between 12-18 years we wouldn’t see someone of an elderly age going through adolescence. Conversely, Freud the psychoanalysis suggests that the (psychosexual) experience we have as children impacts on our development of our adult personalities (Cooper and Roth, pg 7, 2003).
In considering a child’s early developmental years, Piaget argued that predictable stages of cognitive development will occur during specific periods of a child’s life. Whatever theory we consider, we find that some can’t always be true; (competing), and we could be talking about different levels of explanation (complementary) and there could be a degree of overlap (co-existing) theories in psychology in relation to lifespan development.
Developmental psychologists regarded that our changes occurred primarily during childhood and once we had moved into adulthood it was seen as a stable period of “fixity” before we decline into old age. Evidence now suggests that these ideas are not necessarily sound (Cooper and Roth, pg 3, 2003) and that the shift in the use of the terminology to lifespan development indicates that the previous assumption was no longer accepted.