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Cognitive Theorists


Forcenturies, the mechanisms through which humans absorb, store, andretrieve information have been one of the most explored scopes ofpsychology. Although the exact mechanisms are still not clearlycomprehensible, thousands of scientists have dedicated their lives torevealing how human beings learn to do what they do. These groups ofscientific experts are clustered into different categories,contingent on the classification of their theoretical concepts. Thispaper clarifies why theorists Piaget, Tolman, and Bandura werebundled into the same category of cognitive theorists. Additionally,this paper will discuss both the similarities and differences of thetrio of theorists.

Basically,cognitive development is Jean Piaget’s (1896-1980) conception.According to Paiget, the degree of a child’s adaptation to itsenvironment (behavior) is controlled by schemata,which are mental representations that a child uses to generatedepictions of the world around it and designate appropriate action.The degree of adaptation (which Piaget describes as intelligence) isdriven by a child’s biological determination to achieve a balancebetween the schemataand the environment (equilibration). Piaget describes assimilation,accommodation, and equilibration as the processes used by children toadapt to new environments (intellectual growth) after which theoriginal schematais replaced with construct and elaborate schemata.As the schematabecome increasingly intricate, they create structuresthat are organized in a hierarchical order from general to specificschemes of reflexes. Piaget identified four consecutive phases incognitive development: sensorimotor, pre-operational, concreteoperational, and formal operational stages.

EdwardTolman Chace (1886-1959) is another theorist that contributed to thetheory of cognitive learning through his philosophy of latentlearning. Nevertheless, Tolman found the stimulus-responseprinciple unacceptable because he believed that reinforcement was notessential for the learning process to transpire. According toTolman’s principle, learners do more than just responding toexternal cues because they act on attitudes and beliefs that keepshifting over long periods of time. He created the expressioncognitivemap,which is an internal (mental) exemplification of external cues(signals). Tolman devised latent learning to refer to learning thatis not profound in a learner’s conduct at the time of education,but will later manifest itself when appropriate circumstances presentthemselves. Albert Bandura is another theorist that contributedgreatly to the comprehension of cognitive development through hissocial cognitive theory. As stated by Bandura, children observe thebehaviors of the people (models) around them, ranging from parents,siblings, friends, to cartoon characters on television. Children payattention to these models, encoding their behavior to mirror whatthey see their modelsdo. This explains why children may imitate observable behaviors,which can be reinforced by either internal or external stimuli.Bandura mentioned four meditational processes of observationallearning: attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation.Evidently, all the hypothetical propositions of these theorists aresimilar by virtue of the fact that they rest on stimulus-responseas the core of cognitive human development. These scientists are inbundled into the same category of cognitive theorists because theybelieve that human beings acquire new sets of behaviors (intellectualgrowth) by finding equilibrium between the environment and differentschemes (reflexes).

Inas much these theorists have a striking similarity in their thoughtprocesses there are some conceptual disparities as well. First andforemost, the most conspicuous difference is that Bandura’s andPiaget’s theories are concerned with the developmental processes ofchildren. Both these theorists are bent on explaining how humanbeings assimilate information from a child’s perspective. On thecontrary, Tolman’s theory of latent learning explains the generalprocess of learning for all learners irrespective of thedevelopmental stage. Still on the same point, there is another twistof difference because since Piaget’s and Bandura’s theories focuson the process of child development, they do not address the processof learning specific behaviors in the form of learned information.Third, Tolman’s theory of latent learning does not acknowledge thesignificance of reinforcement in the process of learning whereasBandura’s and Piaget’s theories recognize the importance. Inaccordance to Tolman, people are active information processors andnot passive learners as Bandura’s and Piaget’s theories propose.To Tolman, learners do more than plainly responding to externalstimuli simply because people act on attitudes and beliefs that arebound to change their behaviors from time to time depending on theprevailing circumstances. Fourth, while Piaget’s theory proposesdiscrete stages of development that are marked by qualitativealterations, Bandura’s theory proposes developmental stages markedby a gradual increase in the complexity and number (quantity) ofbehaviors or concepts copied from the environment. Fifth, unlikePiaget’s and Bandura’s concepts of development, Tolman’s theorydoes not have clearly marked stages of development to be followed bya learner.

Themechanisms through which human beings absorb, store, and retrieveinformation have been a fascinating topic in the world ofpsychologists for centuries now. As such, thousands of scientists andpsychologists have engraved themselves with unearthing how humanbeings learn. Piaget, Tolman, and Bandura are some of the world’sgreatest contributors in this scope of psychology. Through the lensof these theorists, this paper has proven that theorists are groupedcontingent on their theoretical philosophies. Tolman, Piaget, andBandura are bundled in the same group because all their theoriespostulate that human beings acquire new sets of behaviors(intellectual growth) by finding equilibrium between the environmentand different schemes (reflexes). What’s more, this paper hasdiscussed the conceptual differences in all the theorists. Thanks tothe efforts of these psychologists, people now have a clearunderstanding of how humans learn to do what they do.