Cognitive Development is not an Automatic Process

A child’s ability to focus on how children learn and process information serves as a basis for measuring cognitive development. It is the development of thought and organizing the system of thought. It involves language, mental images, thinking, reasoning, problem solving, and memory development and further brainpower.

By general consensus, Jean Piaget stands as THE central theorist in contemporary child study. He developed a whole field of cognitive development, observed regularities in children’s performances that no one has noted before him. His theory concerns how the child thinks, how thinking changes from infancy to adolescence, and how the changes reflect an interesting series of structured stages.

Although Piaget set clear stages of cognitive development, which continues to be useful to contemporary child educators, he omitted to say that cognitive development is not an automatic process. The fact is that the child will not reach any of these stages without proper education. Contrary to the animal, the human being only knows, and can only do, what he/she has learned. This fundamental principle is confirmed by studies that compared children who were raised in an enriched learning environment and children who were raised in a deprived learning environment. This principle is further confirmed by stories of feral children.

Research has shown that a stimulus-rich learning environment can dramatically increase IQ, while a less able learning environment stimulates children’s attention can lead to dramatic decrease in intelligence.

A particularly interesting project on early learning involved 25 children in an orphanage. These children were seriously environmentally deprived because the orphanage was crowded and understaffed. Thirteen babies of the average age of 19 months were transferred to the Glenwood State School for retarded adult women and each baby was put in the personal care of a woman. Skeels, who conducted the experiment, deliberately chose the most deficient of the orphans to be placed in the Glenwood School. Their average IQ was 64, while the average IQ of the 12 who stayed behind in the orphanage was 87.

A good school is one that has psychological appeal for children. There are even schools where children are placed in open and active wards with older and relatively younger women. Their surrogate mother weighs them with love and hugs. Toys are available, they are taken on sightseeing and they are widely spoken to. Women are taught how to teach babies and how to get the language from them. All processes based on stimulus and response.