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← Theories of the Unconscious MindEarly Childhood Development →
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Sensorimotor: (birth to about age 2)

Reflexive Stage 
(0-2 months)

Primary Circular Reactions
(2-4 months)

Secondary Circular Reactions
(4-8 months)

Coordination of Secondary Reactions
(8-12 months)

Tertiary Circular Reactions
(12-18 months)

Invention of New Means Through Mental Combination 
(18-24 months) (3)  

During this stage, the child learns about himself and his environment through motor and reflex actions. Thought derives from sensation and movement. Early in this stage a child does not know that physical objects remain in existence even when out of sight (object permanence).

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The child learns that he is separate from his environment and that aspects of his environment -- his parents or favorite toy -- continue to exist even though they may be outside the reach of his senses. Teaching for a child in this stage should be geared to the sensorimotor system. You can modify behavior by using the senses: a frown, a stern or soothing voice -- all serve as appropriate techniques.(1)

(0-2 mo) Simple reflex activity such as grasping, sucking. (3)

(2-4 mo) Reflexive behaviors occur in stereotyped repetition such as opening and closing fingers repetitively (3)

(4-8 mo) Repetition of change actions to reproduce interesting consequences such as kicking one's feet to more a mobile suspended over the crib. (3)

(8-12 mo) Responses become coordinated into more complex sequences.  Actions take on an "intentional" character such as the infant reaches behind a screen to obtain a hidden object (3) (Object Permanence)

(12-18 mo) Discovery of new ways to produce the same consequence or obtain the same goal such as the infant may pull a pillow toward him in an attempt to get a toy resting on it. (3)

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(18-24 mo) Evidence of an internal representational system.  Symbolizing the problem-solving sequence before actually responding.  Deferred imitation. (3)

Preoperational: (begins about the time the child starts to talk to about age 7)(2-7 years)

Preoperational Phase (2-4 yrs)

Intuitive Phase  (4-7 yrs)

Applying his new knowledge of language, the child begins to use symbols to represent objects. Early in this stage he also personifies objects. He is now better able to think about things and events that aren't immediately present. Oriented to the present, the child has difficulty conceptualizing time. His thinking is influenced by fantasy -- the way he'd like things to be -- and he assumes that others see situations from his viewpoint. He takes in information and then changes it in his mind to fit his ideas. Teaching must take into account the child's vivid fantasies and undeveloped sense of time. Using neutral words, body outlines and equipment a child can touch gives him an active role in learning. (1)

(2-4 yrs) Increased use of verbal representation but speech is egocentric.  The beginnings of symbolic rather than simple motor play.  Transductive reasoning.  Can think about something without the object being present by use of language. (3)

(4-7 yrs) Speech becomes more social, less egocentric.  The child has an intuitive grasp of logical concepts in some areas.  However, there is still a tendency to focus attention on one aspect of an object while ignoring others.  Concepts formed are crude and irreversible.   Easy to believe in magical increase, decrease, disappearance.  Reality not firm.  Perceptions dominate judgment. (3)

In moral-ethical realm, the child is not able to show principles underlying best behavior.  Rules of a game not develop, only uses simple do's and don'ts imposed by authority. (3)

Concrete: (about first grade to early adolescence) (7-12 years)

During this stage, accommodation increases. The child develops an ability to make rational judgments about concrete or observable phenomena (using abstract problem solving), which in the past he needed to manipulate physically to understand. In teaching this child, giving him the opportunity to ask questions and to explain things back to you allows him to mentally manipulate information. (1)

For example, arithmetic equations can be solved with numbers, not just with objects. (2)

Evidence for organized, logical thought.  There is the ability to perform multiple classification tasks, order objects in a logical sequence, and comprehend the principle of conservation.  thinking becomes less transductive and less egocentric.  The child is capable of concrete problem-solving.  (3)

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Some reversibility now possible (quantities moved can be restored such as in arithmetic:
3+4 = 7 and 7-4 = 3, etc.) (3)

Class logic-finding bases to sort unlike objects into logical groups where previously it was on superficial perceived attribute such as color.   Categorical labels such as "number" or animal" now available. (3)

Formal Operations: (adolescence) (11-15 years)

This stage brings cognition to its final form. This person no longer requires concrete objects to make rational judgments. Higher degree of abstract thinking. At his point, he is capable of hypothetical and deductive reasoning. (1)

By this point, the child's cognitive structures are like those of an adult and include conceptual reasoning. (2)

 Teaching for the adolescent may be wide-ranging because he'll be able to consider many possibilities from several perspectives. (1)

Thought becomes more abstract, incorporating the principles of formal logic.  The ability to generate abstract propositions, multiple hypotheses and their possible outcomes is evident.  Thinking becomes less tied to concrete reality. (3)

Formal logical systems can be acquired.  Can handle proportions, algebraic manipulation, other purely abstract processes.  If a + b = x then x = a - b.  If ma/ca = IQ = 1.00 then Ma = CA. (3)

Prepositional logic, as-if and if-then steps.  Can use aids such as axioms to transcend human limits on comprehension. (3)

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