Cognition according to Jean Piaget

Cognition as a descriptive word is derived from cogita, a Latin term meaning to think. This ability is what led Jean Piaget, a French psychologist, to research the way in which people think through its origins and its progression from infancy into adulthood. His theory is of two part:The process of getting to the point where one knows and the stages or steps of getting to that knowledge.

At first he was interested in and worked with biology. Mostly he researched but the work that defines him is his work in dissecting human thought and how they come into knowledge of their own thinking ability. He knew himself as a genetic epistologist, defined  as “…attempts to explain knowledge, and in particular scientific knowledge, on the basis of its history, its sociogenesis, and especially the psychological origins of the notions and operations upon which it is based.”
In other words he wanted to know the process of thinking, its history, its relationship to society, and attempted to understand how one came into self knowledge concerning the internal process.  Whether or not, ‘Decartes’s famous lines “I think therefore I am” preceded his work, is not known. Possibly he could have agreed, but he took the matter further by continuing the imaginary conversation in this way: Yes I know that, but how do living, acting people think?

He, as a researcher of cognition, asked questions. How does one know what they know? In attempting to get a logical answer, this logical thinker, began his studies by studying children from diverse backgrounds and intelligence levels. Noticing that small children thought differently from older children led to the conclusion toddlers were no less intelligent than the elementary aged group, and incrementally this thought went,  only more experienced.

That understanding led to another question: What mechanism is in place that makes it possible to think? Certainly babies are not born thinking, he knew they must have some means for this to become activated later on. For distinction between cognition during his lifetime (1896-1980) and cognition today, readers must know he was not privileged to the advantages of today’s researchers, especially the DNA genome findings and possibilities. Had he known that he would have further understood that a baby is born with a blueprint that puts into place all that is necessary for later thought during the fetal stage. That would have simplified his studies, or possibly it would have put him out of that field entirely. But he knew something was there from the start even though he couldn’t identify it.
Cognitive thinking started him on this pathway toward understanding thought and the questions he asked were only fully answered by those following. Yet it was he who questioned, researched, and persisted. Because of that the world now knows more on how thoughts originate, and how, when used properly, give individuals insight into their own peculiar thought patterns that often lead to better mental and physical health. Although his answers were only time sequences on the subject,  a writer an on-line  Learning and Teaching writer put it this way concerning whether Paiget’s  answers were right or wrong: It “. . .is the fate of great scholars, researchers and innovators to ask the great questions but produce the wrong answers…”

Yet had not the questions been asked, later researchers and psychologists would not have had the tools to pick up and carry on the research. One valid question that has led to much discussion and to furthering this knowledge based field is how does cognitive thinking develop?

From Paigit’s point of view it is environmental adaption that starts the ball rolling. He calls this intelligence, or how an organism adapts to its surroundings. Following that is how the infant, toddler, etc., behaves, or is acclimated to their surroundings. The next question is, what drives this action? The mechanism is in place for thinking to develop, but what force actually turns the switch? Paiget’s explanation is that this begins as a balance between their view of their world and the environment in which they live.

In other world, a balance between the interior and the exterior world which always need some type of adjustment, and it is this need for a reckoning that brings a somewhat stressful situation that needs clarification, or a balance. Therefore energy is developed to propel thought forward by this slightly unbalanced system. In common sense reasoning, that confusing thought might be simplified by this stressful thought of an infant wanting to get to something out of their reach. An example of this possibly leads to crawling, and to  walking

Paigit, however, used other terminology. He perferred the term schemes to describe the process by which a thinking person sought to create a balance between what they think and what the outside world believed they should think. At first these are only reflexes – some say blue prints and precise instructions on how they should be read. A good example of this is when a baby is first born and separated from his mother. A reflex switch is thrown and he begins to cry. This cry fills the lungs with oxygen, a necessary chemical for the functioning of life, the first rudimentary process of thinking.

The process  of cognition, according to Paigit’s theory is of four stages: Sensor motor or infancy; Pre-operational, or toddler to  early childhood; Concrete operational or elementary and early adulthood; Formal operational or adolescent and early adulthood. Cogniton, form whatever source, is embraced in psychological circles today since the prevailing thoughts on health and wellness is how well an individual understands himself. The prevailing question could be, do I react to the outside stimuli without question and make no attempt to see my part in the overall acceptance or denial, or do I stand outside of myself and look inside?

Cognition, put simply, is dealing with one’s own thought patterns and coming to conclusions, and amending, and searching for the truth that lies beyond surface thinking. This is especially helpful when psychologist attempt to teach patients to understand how their patterns of thought may be directly, or indirectly contributing to their illness.