Professor Paul Bloom: So, most of what we do these days – our methods, our theories, our ideas – are shaped, to some extent, by Piaget's influence. And so, what I want to do is begin this class that's going to talk about cognitive development by talking about his ideas. His idea was that children are active thinkers; they're trying to figure out the world. He often described them as little scientists. And incidentally, to know where he's coming from on this, he had a very dramatic and ambitious goal. He didn't start off because he was interested in children. He started off because he was interested in the emergence of knowledge in general. It was a discipline he described as genetic epistemology – the origins of knowledge. But he studied development of the individual child because he was convinced that this development will tell him about the development of knowledge more generally. There's a very snooty phrase that--I don't know if you ever heard it before. It's a great phrase. It's "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny." And the idea of this--What that means is that development of an individual mimics or repeats development of the species. Now, it's entirely not true, but it's a beautiful phrase and Piaget was committed to this. He was very interested in saying, "Look. We'll figure how a kid develops and that will tell us about the development of knowledge more generally."心理学空间ZXi4?#b*F+}
So, Piaget viewed the child as a scientist who developed this understanding, these schemas, these little, miniature theories of the world. And they did this through two sorts of mechanisms: assimilation and accommodation. So, assimilation would be the act of expanding the range of things that you respond to. Piaget's example would be a baby who's used to sucking on a breast might come to suck on a bottle or on a rattle. That's changing the scope of things that you respond to. Accommodation is changing how you do it. A baby will form his mouth differently depending on what he's sucking on. And so, these processes where you take in--I'm giving this in a very physical way, but in a more psychological sense you have a way of looking at the world. You could expand it to encompass new things, assimilation. But you could also change your system of knowledge itself – accommodation. And Piaget argued that these two mechanisms of learning drove the child through different stages. And he had a stage theory, which was quite different from the Freudian stage theory that we have been introduced to. So his methods were to ask children to solve problems and to ask them questions. And his discoveries that--they did them in different ways at different ages led to the emergence of the Stage Theory.心理学空间,VUb;P
So, for Piaget, the first stage is the sensorimotor stage or the sensorimotor period. For here the child is purely a physical creature. The child has no understanding in any real way of the external world. There's no understanding of the past, no understanding of the future, no stability, no differentiation. The child just touches and sees, but doesn't yet reason. And it's through this stage that a child gradually comes to acquire object permanence.
Object permanence is the understanding that things exist when you no longer see them. So those of you in front, you're looking at me and I go [ducks behind lectern]. It occurred to me it'd be a great magic trick if I then appeared in back. But no, I'm just here. That's object permanence. If I went under here and then the people said, "Where the hell did he go? Class is over," that would show a lack of object permanence. So, adults have object permanence. Piaget's very interesting claim is that kids don't. Before six-month-olds, Piaget observed, you take an object the kid likes like a rattle, you hide it, you put it behind something, it's like it's gone. And he claimed the child really thinks it's just gone. Things don't continue to exist when I'm not looking at them anymore. And so he noticed they--they're surprised by peek-a-boo. And Piaget's claim was one reason why they're surprised at peek-a-boo is you go--you look at a kid, the kid's smiling and go, "Oh, peek-a-boo," and you close--and you cover your face and the kid says, "He's gone." "Peek-a-boo." "Oh, there he is. He's gone." And you really--That's the claim.
Piaget also discovered that older children fail at a task that's known as the A-not-B task. And Peter Gray in his psychology textbook refers to it as the "changing hiding places" problem, which is probably a better name for it. And here's the idea. You take a nine-month-old and for Piaget a nine-month-old is just starting to make sense of objects and their permanence. You take an object and you put it here in a cup where the kid can't see it, but it's in the cup. So the kid, if you were the kid, will reach for it. You do it again, reach for it. You do it again, reach for it. That's point A. Then you take--you move it over here. Piaget observed kids would still reach for this. It's like they're not smart enough to figure out that it's not there anymore, even if they see it move. And this was more evidence that they just don't understand objects, and that this thing takes a lot of time and learning to develop.
J4h5v0The next stage is the preoperational stage. The child starts off grasping the world only in a physical way, in a sensorimotor way, but when he gets to the preoperational period the capacity to represent the world, to have the world inside your head, comes into being. But it's limited and it's limited in a couple of striking ways. One way in which it's limited is that children are egocentric. Now, egocentrism has a meaning in common English which means to be selfish. Piaget meant it in a more technical way. He claimed that children at this age literally can't understand that others can see the world differently from them. So, one of his demonstrations was the three mountains task. We have three mountains over there. You put a child on one side of the mountains and you ask him to draw it, and a four- or five-year-old can do it easily, but then you ask him to draw it as it would appear from the other side and children find this extraordinarily difficult. They find it very difficult to grasp the world as another person might see it.
HC6b(G WJ0Another significant finding Piaget had about this phase of development concerns what's called "conservation." The notion of conservation is that there's ways to transform things such that some aspects of them change but others remain the same. So, for instance, if you take a glass of water and you pour it into another glass that's shallow or tall, it won't change the amount of water you have. If you take a bunch of pennies and you spread them out, you don't get more pennies. But kids, according to Piaget, don't know that and this is one of the real cool demonstrations. Any of you who have access to a four- or five-year-old, [laughter] a sibling or something--Do not take one without permission, but if you have access to a four- or five-year-old you can do this yourself. This is what it looks like. The first one has no sound. The second one is going to be sound that's going to come on at the end [plays video]. But there's two rows of checkers. She asks the kid which one has more. The kid says they're the same. Then she says--Now she asks him which one has more, that or that. So that's really stupid. And it's an amazing finding kids will do that and it's a robust finding.心理学空间 \x5Zz7L$@(u)o2^"b
Here's another example. So, they're the same [tape playing]. So, it's a cool finding of that stage, suggesting a limitation in how you deal and make sense of the world. The next phase, concrete operations, from seven to twelve, you can solve the conservation problem, but still you're limited to the extent you're capable of abstract reasoning. So the mathematical notions of infinity or logical notions like logical entailment are beyond a child of this age. The child is able to do a lot, but still it's to some extent stuck in the concrete world. And then finally, at around age twelve, you could get abstract and scientific reasoning. And this is the Piagetian theory in very brief form.
Now, Piaget fared a lot better than did Freud or Skinner for several reasons. One reason is these are interesting and falsifiable claims about child development. So claims that--about the failure of conservation in children at different ages could be easily tested and systematically tested, and in fact, there's a lot of support for them. Piaget had a rich theoretical framework, pulling together all sorts of observations in different ways, wrote many, many books and articles and articulated his theory very richly. And most of all, I think, he had some really striking findings. Before Piaget, nobody noticed these conservation findings. Before Piaget, nobody noticed that babies had this problem tracking and understanding objects.
At the same time, however, there are limitations in Piaget's theory. Some of these limitations are theoretical. It's an interesting question as to whether he really explains how a child goes from a concrete thinker to an abstract thinker, or how he goes from not having object permanence to understanding object permanence. There's methodological limitations. Piaget was really big into question and answer, but one problem with this is that children aren't very good with language, and this might lead you to underestimate how much they know. And this is particularly a problem the younger you get.心理学空间O#S u_u5o+k&H
Methodology is going to loom heavy in the discussion of any science and that includes psychology. Often 90% of the game is discovering a clever method through which to test your hypotheses. We're going to talk a little bit about that regarding babies. I'll give you another example from a very different domain. There was a set of scientists interested in studying tickling. So, when you tickle somebody, under what circumstances will they laugh? Where do you have to tickle them? Can you tickle yourself? Does it have to be a surprise, and so on? It turns out very difficult to study this in a lab. You're not going to have your experimental credit. You come into the lab and say, "Okay. I'm the graduate student. Ha, ha, ha." And [laughter] in fact, an example of a methodological attempt was done by Henry Gleitman at University of Pennsylvania, who built a tickle machine, which was this box with these two giant hands that went "r-r-r-r." This was a failure because people could not go near the tickle machine without convulsing in laughter. But we will discuss when we have a lecture on laughter a bit of the tickle sciences.
And finally there's factual. What do infants and children really know? It's possible that due to the methodological limitations of Piaget, he systematically underestimated what children and babies know. And in fact, I'll present some evidence suggesting that this is in fact--that this is the case.