Cognitive Development in Childhood and Adolescence

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Cognitive development can be defined as the formation of thought processes such as problem solving, decision-making and memory from childhood to adulthood through adolescence (Bjorklund & Causey, 2017). In other words, cognitive development is concerned with how people, through the exchange of learned and genetic variables, think, interpret and gain awareness of their immediate environment. Reasoning, knowledge, memory, information processing and language development (Encyclopedia of Children’s Health) are significant aspects of cognitive development. In the past, people believed that minors (infants) were unable to think or create detailed ideas and thus they remained without the process of perceiving (cognition) till they developed language skills. However, current research has revealed that infants are cognizant of their environment and develop interest in exploring their surrounding immediately they are delivered (Bjorklund & Causey, 2017). When infants are born, they actively start learning. Actually, they develop thinking and perception skills through gathering, sorting and analyzing the information in their surroundings (Piaget, 1971). Majority of infants can follow objects that are in motion, differentiate volume of sound from pitch, view all colors and perform other acts. According to Piaget, Adolescents are at ‘’formal operations’’ stage of construction of thinking processes which is characterized by autonomy of imagining via challenges and circumstances. At adolescence children are supposed to be able to comprehend genuine specializations such as complex mathematics concepts and philosophy.

Various theories have been developed to describe cognitive development among individuals from childhood, adolescence all the way to adulthood. The main theories are cognitive development theory by Jean Piaget, sociocultural theory of cognitive development by Lev Semenovich Vygotsky and information processing theory by developmental psychologists (Miller, Atkinson, Shriffin, Craik, Bransford, Lockhart, McClelland and Rumelhart). This academic work discusses how cognitive development and sociocultural theories explain construction of thinking processes (cognitive development).

Cognitive development theory by Piaget remains one of the most influential and famous theories in the area of cognitive development. Contrary to other behavioral theorists, Piaget focused on studying children in their own surrounding through observation (Encyclopedia of children’s Health). Piaget proposed that the knowledge of a child is composed of fundamental units of cognizance that are used to arrange prior experiences which act as foundation for understanding new ideas. He further argued that the fundamental units of knowledge continuously modified by processes of assimilation and accommodation. Piaget’s theory asserts that cognitive development takes place in a sequence of four unique phases which are distinguished by increasingly superior and concrete levels of thinking. The four phases occur in similar sequence and they construct on experiences of prior phase (Piaget, 1971). These phases are infancy, pre-operational, concrete operational and formal operational.

At infancy phase also referred as sensorimotor phase, intelligence of babies is illustrated vial motor activity rather than symbol use (Bjorklund & Causey, 2017). Actually, here the cognizance of the surrounding is grounded on physical associations and experiences and therefore is limited but developing. Piaget states that children acquire object permanence at age of seven months. The baby gains new intellectual competencies through physical mobility. At the end of infancy stage, babies develop some language (symbolic) competencies. During pre-operational phase use of language matures and imaginations and memory get developed. Here, use of symbols illustrates intelligence. Despite development of imagination and memory, thinking is exercised through illogical and irreversible pattern. In fact, thinking at this stage is dominated by egocentric thinking. Seven forms of conservation namely length, number, mass, weight, liquid volume and area characterize early adolescence and elementary (concrete operational)l stage. Intelligence is illustrated by orderly and logical manipulation of symbols associated with abstract objects. Most important, mental activities that can be reversed (operational thinking) are developed.

During the adolescence, the individuals tend to acquire the capability to ensure systematic thinking regarding all the logical relationships within the emerging issues Day, M. C. (1981). There is the necessity for noting that the shift from the concrete thinking to the formal logical operations tend to occur over time (Pauls, Petermann, & Lepach, 2015). The rates of progress amongst the adolescents tend to vary significantly in their capabilities to think in seemingly complex ways. Every youth usually develops his or her view of the world independently (Bjorklund, & Causey, 2017). Some adolescents, however, exhibit the skills to apply the logical operations in their schoolwork long before they are capable of applying them to their personal dilemmas (Sunyer, et al., 2015).Formal logical or complex operations exhibited by adolescents include creating own ideas or reasoning from familiar principles, comparing and debating opinions (thinking from different points of view), thinking about all possible outcomes (abstract thinking) and many others (Sunyer, et al., 2015). Significantly, adolescents start thinking about the series of activities involved in thinking. Indeed, they become centered by futuristic and philosophical interests. For instance, at adolescence teens start thinking how to become famous politicians or leaders, Questions why or how phenomena came to existence and how they can invent new technologies for developmental purposes. Therefore, the emergence of the emotional issues tends to result in notable interference with the capability of the adolescents to think in ways that are more complex (Sills, Rowse, & Emerson, 2016). The decision-making process of the adolescents usually experiences significant influence from their abilities to consider the different possibilities and facts.

Some of the important indicators of the transformation in the cognitive development include the fact that the individuals at the initial phase of adolescence exhibit the use of more complex thinking that focuses on the personal decision-making in the diverse environments. As such, the early adolescents tend to show the preference for using the formal logical operations in their schoolwork (Baker & Milligan, 2015). Furthermore, the beginning of the adolescents tends to commence questioning the authority and societal standards. Formation and verbalization of their thoughts and views regarding the various topics that relate to their lives as well characterize the early adolescence phase (Mrozek-Budzyn, Majewska, & Kiełtyka, 2015).

On the other hand, the expansion of the focus by the adolescence towards their inclusion of the futuristic and philosophical concerns marks the intermediate phase youth. As such, the questioning and analysis by individuals in this stage of development become extensive (Bjørnebekk, et al., 2015). Furthermore, these people start to think about and begin to form their code of ethics besides their commencement on the development of their identities (Hilton, 2017). As such, the middle adolescents exhibit the preference in engaging in the systematic consideration of their possible future goals attributable to their long-term thinking.

The late adolescents depict the increased thoughts regarding some of the global concepts, such as patriotism, politics, and history (Herbst & Tekin, 2016). Furthermore, the end of the adolescence usually develops the idealistic views regarding certain topics or concerns besides their engagement in debating and development of intolerance regarding certain opposing views. The late adolescents further exhibit the preference for focusing their thoughts on both their career decisions and emerging role in the adult society (de Lourdes et al., 2013).

Piaget describes the mental capabilities of individuals in their imagination of hypothetical situation crucial in predicting the outcome using the term ‘mental activities.’ Hypothetico deductive reasoning involves critical thinking or capability of individuals to think scientifically to identify solutions for particular economic, cultural or social issues (Piaget, 1971). Through this form of thinking adolescents are able to formulate scientific hypothesis and predictions in regards to particular phenomenon. He considers the psychological operations necessary in predicting the outcome without the need for the actual observation or enactment of the scenario, for instance, in situations whereby the children begin to develop their capability to solve the particular operations using their lifetime experiences (Correia, et al., 2012). For example, an adolescent may want to bake a delicious cake to share with his colleagues, however, at the end of the process the outcomes turns unfavorable. According to hypothetico deductive reasoning, instead of such individual changing all ingredients used in baking the cake he/she only varies one ingredient till the anticipated outcome is attained.

Piaget argues that the adolescent years play a crucial role amongst the youth since they facilitate their movements beyond some of the limitations of the particular mental operations and, thus, promote their development of the capability to adopt abstract thoughts (Tucker-Drob & Harden, 2012). Piaget, thus, considers formal operations as the capacity to ensure the achievement of the objectives of the mental operations using the abstract and intangible concepts that include poverty or justice. Such concepts play a crucial role in facilitating estimation or description of the effects associated with the different intangible ideas.

The study conducted by Piaget points out that the youths enter the formal operations stage of development at approximately 11 years of age. However, the good evolution of the children depicts distinct characterizations that make them unique from that of the other person (Hall, et al., 2009). The cognitive development of the children tends to exhibit dependence on other factors that include the medical conditions, the quality, and quantity of the formal training or schooling, family culture, and the physical or emotional trauma that the child faces (Hartmann, 2012).

Besides the capability to perform the abstract mental operations efficiently, the adolescents tend to exhibit the preference for the adoption of both the scientific and logical approaches to their resolution of problems. Piaget considers the approach hypothetico-deductive reasoning. As such, the approach facilitates the capability of the youth in considering either a problem or situation and, hence, identifies the various variables that affect the outcome (Ferguson, et al., 2013). Furthermore, the adolescents during this phase of development are capable of effectively predicting the outcome if there is manipulation or alteration of one or more of the variables. The capability has numerous practical applications since it facilitates the ability of the youth to ensure selection of the most sensible and logical solution to an issue.

Piaget further considers the propositional thought as another notably complicated process of reflection that the adolescents exhibit the preference for mastering. The approach mainly involves the youths determining the logical nature of statement based on the wording of the declaration instead of having to engage in the recreation or observation of the actual scenario (Hakvoort, 2002).

Besides enhancement of the scientific and logical nature of the adolescents, they also exhibit some of the characteristics that involve their betterment as students through interpretation and observation. The students are capable of ensuring the valid observation of other’s expressions, appearance, comments, and behavior and, thus, interpret such information into reliable predictions regarding the thought, feelings, and needs of the other individual. However, such cognitive capabilities tend to manifest at the time when the young teenagers struggle with the insecurities regarding the changes in their bodies, changes in identity, and life experiences (Smith, 2016). As such, Piaget considers the combination of such factors as the imaginary audience. The teens at this stage of development begin to believe that everyone around them is judgmental and always watches the high levels of self-consciousness amongst the adolescents. The idea of imaginary audience plays a crucial role in assisting the parents in understanding the reasons for the teens spending significant amounts of time in front of the mirrors before their running for errands and the incredible embarrassment that arises out of minor mistakes.

Despite the capability of the utilization of the abstract thoughts and keen observational skills in facilitating the capacity of the youths in becoming sensitive to the needs of others and boosting the extent to which they are attuned to others, these skills contribute to the emergence of new social and emotional challenges in the youth (Niaz, 1992). The development of the emotional problems amongst the youth is attributable to the use of the developed cognitive abilities in comparing themselves to others. The comparison thus results in the feeling of being unique and different from other peers. Piaget considers such as personal fable. The personal fable is attributable to the feelings of the youths as having unique abilities from other individuals across the globe. However, the personal fable tends to contribute to the emergence of some devastating consequences since the youth tends to assume serious risks in overestimating their capabilities through their belief that they can handle the situations (Cook-Cottone, 2004).

Despite the crucial role that Piaget’s theory plays in advancing the knowledge and comprehension of the cognitive development, some aspects of his theory fail to withstand the rigors characterizing the contemporary studies (James, 2001). For instance, recent studies show that not every individual reaches the developmental stage of formal operations as asserted by Piaget in his study. Furthermore, studies indicate that the absence of constant practicing of the abstract thinking may result in the lack of full development of the skill.

Vygotsky’s theories tend to emphasize the significant role attributable to the social world that facilitates the development of the cognitive functions of a child (Murphy, Scantlebury & Milne, 2015). The theory asserts that the children tend to internalize the thinking process that commences through their interactions in the social surrounding. The qualitative shifts between the higher and basic psychological functions, therefore, occur due to the transition in the use of the mediators that include symbols and language (Zaretskii, 2009). The use and acquisition of the tongue is crucial in facilitating the development phase of the children.

The apparent interest of Vygotsky in the potential of the children for the intellectual growth resulted in his development of the zone of proximal development. As such, the concept has played a crucial role in the extensive use of scaffolding. Scaffolding entails the educational approach whereby the teacher makes the necessary adjustment to the amounts, the type of support availed to the child to suit their capabilities, and with the development of skills by the child, the support is gradually withdrawn. The Vygotsky’s theory obtains a significant influence on culture in various ways (Kravtsova, 2009). The culture tends to vary extensively with the settings or type of institution adopted in facilitating the development of the children.

Vygotsky in his study on cognitive development played a crucial role in drawing focus to the crucial nature of the social context whereby transformation and learning of the cognitive attributes tend influence both the peer groups and adults in the development of the children (Levykh, 2008). Furthermore, he pointed out that the specifics of a particular culture are essential in determining the nature and manner of functioning of the societal bodies that tend to affect the way that the children think and learn.

In conclusion, Cognitive development is a gradual process through which an individual’s intelligence and world’s knowledge is increasingly improved from childhood to adulthood through adolescence. Cognitive development and sociocultural theories developed by Piaget and Vygotsky respectively provide good insights about how thinking processes such as memory, reasoning and problem solving are developed. Processes of thought in young children and adolescents vary greatly (Piaget, 1971). For instance, whereas, young children are only able to perform simple activities like following mobile objects, adolescents are capable of performing formal logic operations such as expressing own ideas and formulating scientific hypothesis.

Question 2: Effects of Aging on the Mind and Memory


Aging of individuals is usually characterized by both the biological and psychological changes in diverse ways. Some of the apparent changes tend to present advantages to the people while other changes are disadvantageous. Furthermore, there is sufficient evidence pointing out to the fact that the alterations of both the brain structure and its functionality tend to exhibit a close relation to the cognitive functions in individuals (Shum, et al., 2013). However, the complexities that characterize the cognitive and neural functions make it challenging to ensure efficient mapping between the behavior and brain of people, hence, their speculative nature (Hanaki, 2011). The cognitive neuroscience, however, plays a crucial role in facilitating the establishment of a link between the brain and cognition. The paper, thus, intends to discuss the developmental theories and research evidence that relate to the effects of aging on both the mind and memory of an individual. The hypothesis of the study is that the nervous cognitive functions relate to aging amongst individuals.

Developmental Psychology Theories

The absence of the uniformity between the age related in brain structure and functionality across the entire brain of various individuals is closely related to the apparent lack of consistency in the changes in cognition across the different cognitive domains. Attention and memory remain the principal cognitive functions affected by the age of an individual the most. None of these features is unitary. However, studies suggest that some of the aspects of memory and attention tend to persist with the age while others tend to exhibit significant decline (Kensinger, Krendl, & Corkin, 2006). Furthermore, the perceptions of the individuals tend to decrease about the age due to the reduction in the sensory capacities of the people. The deficits in the early processing stages tend to affect the cognitive functions adversely over an extended period.

Additionally, studies indicate that the higher-level cognitive functions, such as making a decision and language processing, also experience significant effects attributable to the aging of the individuals. Such tasks mainly rely on the set of executive functions that is vital in the management and coordination of the various components of the tasks (Farrimond, Knight, & Titov, 2006). Evidence from different studies points out the fact that the impairment of the executive functions tends to decline about the cognitive tasks.

Episodic Memory

The concept of episodic memory implies the events whose experiences are personal and whose occurrences are at a particular time and place. The episodic memories play a crucial role in allowing an individual to think back through the subjective time (Tulving, 2002). Tulving considers such memories as mental time travel amongst people due to their role in invoking the ‘I remember’ response amongst individuals. At some instances, the episodic memories exhibit distinct human nature whereby it serves as an advanced form of the memory and is usually the last to develop ontogenetically (McDermott & Knight, 2004). As such, the memory shows susceptibility to the brain damage and is mostly affected by the healthy aging.

Tulivan states that the episodic memory issues experienced by the older adults tend to involve the deficiency in decoding, retrieval, or storage processes. At the input phase, the adults tend to encode some of the information in less meaningful ways characterized by less elaboration, such that the memory. As such, the older people exhibit the preference for attending to the salient or focal information while failing to take into account the peripheral details (Villar, Fabà, & Celdrán, 2013). Furthermore, the researcher asserts that majority of the frequent memory lapses reported by the majority of the older people, that include forgetting their parking spots, are attributable to the poor encoding.

Tulivan further states that these kinds of memory failure are substantially attributable to the reduction in the use of the effortful encoding strategies by the elderly people, hence, resulting in the memory lapses. The lack of exercising encoding strategies amongst the elderly people greatly depends on the functionality of the prefrontal brain regions. Another attributable cause of the episodic memory entails the possibility that integration and noticing of the various aspects of an individual’s experience tend to involve the divided attention and, hence, necessitate operational memory (Maxwell & Beaulac, 2013).

Tulivan further states that the older adults tend to experience issues at the levels of consolidation that he identifies as episodic memory issue that relates to the medial temporal lobe structures (Mayo, 2001). Consolidation mainly entails binding of the different aspects of individual’s experiences into composite memory traces. However, there is the necessity for noting that what might be particularly critical for the impairment of the memory amongst the older adults is attributable to the extent to which an event is bound to its temporal and spatial context.


The studies conducted by various scholars point out the fact that the age-related cognitive functions tend to vary considerably across both cognitive domains and with individuals. Some of the cognitive functions exhibit susceptibility than others to the effects of aging. The majority of the studies aimed at relating cognitive development amongst people to aging tend to focus on attention and memory aspects (Lee, et al., 2016). There is the necessity for noting that the deficits amongst these processes account for the majority of the evident variance in the higher-level cognitive processes. Mapping of the cognitive processes top the neural structures plays a crucial role in facilitating comprehension of the relationship between the cognitive development and aging. Awareness of the changes in cognition attributable to aging necessitates a parallel comprehension changes in the brains of individuals attributable to aging and the underlying mechanism attributable to the identified changes. The study, therefore, provides a lucid exploration of the extent to which cognitive development relate to the aging amongst individuals. Furthermore, the study bases its analysis on the initial hypothesis that suggests the presence of changes in the nervous system that plays a crucial role in defining the cognitive functionality of individuals. The nervous system tends to relate to the various cognitive changes attributable to aging as evident in the discussion.


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