Child Development - Piaget and the Brain
Most current mainstream theories of child development build on Piaget’s thinking. One such description of learning has been offered by Annette Karmiloff-Smith, a cognitive psychologist from the University of London. Karmiloff-Smith suggests that babies construct their own view of the world, just as Piaget argued, but she extends Piaget’s model by noting that babies are born with innate predispositions to help them learn certain things at certain stages of development. This model of learning goes something like this:
• Paying Attention: Human nature sets babies up to pay specific attention to certain things they might expect to find in their world. These include such things as people, language and cause-and-effect relationships. A baby is also born with certain cognitive skills, such as being able to deduce things about the world.
• Biology: These innate skills are rooted in the biology of the brain. They are part of the survival mechanisms we share with all mammals. We know, for example, that there is a bias toward human faces built into the sub-cortex of a baby’s brain. A baby pays specific attention to human faces because his brain is predisposed to prefer the particular pattern of two eyes, a nose and a mouth. As a result, there is a greater chance that he is going to prefer you, and become attached to you, rather than to that floor lamp in the corner.
• Constructing a View: When a baby’s world delivers the things his brain was set up to find, he is able to construct a view of the world. This view develops with experience.
• Efficiency: The experiences a baby has, in turn, improve the structure of the baby’s brain, enabling him to deal with life more efficiently.