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SNHU Assessing Theories of Cognitive Development Discussion

SNHU Assessing Theories of Cognitive Development Discussion

SNHU Assessing Theories of Cognitive Development Discussion


Jean Piaget and Len Vygotsky developed their theories of cognitive development during a similar time period, and while Piaget’s theory remains the most recognized theory in this field, it is clear that each theory has strengths and weaknesses. However, upon closer examination of these theories of “cognitive development,” each is clearly attempting to account for a wide range of sociocultural influences across development.

In your initial post, compare and contrast the theories of Piaget and Vygotsky on cognitive development, the role of sociocultural influences, and the ability to account for typical and atypical development across developmental domains.

In your response to your peers, offer evidence to either support or refute your peers’ position. You are encouraged to explore each perspective, so do not hesitate to take a position in your replies that might contradict the position in your own initial post.

To complete this assignment, review the Discussion Rubric document.



Summary of Cognitive development theories: Compare and Contrast



  • Universal developmental among cultures
  • Growth from independent exploration
  • Individual (eco-centric) processes become social processes
  • Peers are an important
  • Varies culturally
  • Growth is from social interactions
  • Social process becomes an individual’s psychological process
  • Adults are important

Table 6.5 (Shaffer & Kipp, 2014, p. 241)

Role of Sociocultural Influences

Sociocultural influences were a great debate with Piaget and Vygotsky. Piaget did not look into social interaction and how it influences the development of a child’s mind; because he felt that conflict among peers is considered a part of cognitive imbalance and intellectual growth (p. 230). While Vygotsky paid more attention to the social aspects of a child and that it should be looked at in four levels of interaction: microgenetic: development of individual over a lifetime, ontogenetic: brief changes over a period of time, phylogenetic: development over evolutionary time, and sociohistorical: changes that occur in an individual’s culture or values (p. 245). Vygotsky also believed that “cultural teaches children what to think and how to go about it” (p. 245).

Typical and Atypical Development across domains

Piaget had four stages of development which happen over an age range as a child becomes older., which are listed as followed:

  • Sensorimotor period (0-2 years)
  • Pre-operation period (2 to 7 years)
  • Concrete Operations (7 to 11 years)
  • Formal Operations (11 or 12 years and beyond)

Vygotsky used the sociocultural theory which was where “children acquire their culture’s values, beliefs, and problem-solving strategies though collaborative dialogues with more knowledgeable members of society” (Shaffer & Kipp, 2014, p. 231). Basically, children look up to their elders to learn and expand their zone of proximal, which are tasks that are too advanced to be done alone. A typical development would be with the four levels of interaction.

I had a difficult time finding atypical developments since both of these theories are opposites of each other.

Shaffer, D. R., & Kipp, K. (2014). Developmental psychology: childhood and adolescence (9th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.


It’s been great to read and research information concerning Jean Piaget over the years as well as Lev Vygotsky. It has taught me many things concerning psychology.

Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development suggests that children move through four different stages of mental development. His theory focuses not only on understanding how children acquire knowledge, but also on understanding the nature of intelligence.

Piaget’s stages are:

  • Sensorimotor stage: birth to 2 years
  • Preoperational stage: ages 2 to 7
  • Concrete operational stage: ages 7 to 11
  • Formal operational stage: ages 12 and up

Piaget believed that children take an active role in the learning process, acting much like little scientists as they perform experiments, make observations, and learn about the world. As kids interact with the world around them, they continually add new knowledge, build upon existing knowledge, and adapt previously held ideas to accommodate new information. Much of Piaget’s interest in the cognitive development of children was inspired by his observations of his own nephew and daughter. These observations reinforced his budding hypothesis that children’s minds were not merely smaller versions of adult minds. Piaget concluded that children were not less intelligent than adults, they simply think differently. Albert Einstein called Piaget’s discovery “so simple only a genius could have thought of it.” Piaget’s stage theory describes the cognitive development of children. Cognitive development involves changes in cognitive process and abilities. In Piaget’s view, early cognitive development involves processes based upon actions and later progresses to changes in mental operations.

Lev Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development is recognized as one of the most innovative psychological theories of the twentieth century. The theory is based on the assumption that culture plays a major role in cognitive development. Each period in child development is associated with a leading activity dominant in a given period. Lev Vygotsky’s, cultural-historical theory of cognitive development is focused on the role of culture in the development of higher mental functions, such as speech and reasoning in children. His theory is sometimes referred to as having a sociocultural perspective, which means the theory emphasizes the importance of society and culture for promoting cognitive development.

Vygotsky believed that adults in a society foster children’s cognitive development in an intentional and systematic manner by engaging them in challenging and meaningful activities. A father intentionally engaged with his child to help her understand how to fit the blocks into the designated holes. Without this assistance, she would have continued to be unsuccessful. But with the meaningful directions from her father, she was able to successfully get the blocks into the holes herself.

There are six assumptions that guide Vygotsky’s theory:

1. The first assumption of Vygotsky’s theory is that through both informal and formal conversations and education adults convey to children the way their culture interprets and responds to the world. Specifically, as adults interact with children, they show the meanings they attach to objects, events and experiences.

2. The second assumption of Vygotsky’s theory is that thought and language become increasingly independent in the first few years of life.

3. The third assumption explains that complex mental processes begin as social activities. As children develop, they gradually internalize processes they use in social contexts and begin to use them independently. This internalization process allows children to transform ideas and processes to make them uniquely their own.

4. Vygotsky also introduced the idea that children can perform more challenging tasks when assisted by more advanced and competent individuals. Vygotsky identified two levels of development: actual development, which is the upper limit of tasks a child can perform individually, and level of potential development, which is the upper limit of tasks a child can perform with the assistance of a more competent individual. According to Vygotsky, in order to get a true assessment of a child’s actual and potential development, we should assess capabilities both when the child is performing the activity alone and with a more competent individual.

5. Our next assumption is that challenging tasks promote maximum cognitive growth. Vygotsky described this as the zone of proximal development, or commonly referred to as ZPD. ZPD is the range of tasks that a child can perform with the help and guidance of others but cannot yet perform independently.

6. The final assumption is that play allows children to stretch themselves cognitively. Play allows children to take on roles they would normally not be able to perform in real life.

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