Cognitive development means how children think, explore and figure things out. It is the development of knowledge, skills, problem solving and dispositions, which help children to think about and understand the world around them. Brain development is part of cognitive development.
We have seen how the mechanism of physical growth and development brings desirable changes in the internal as well as external body organs of an individual in order to increase his physical skill and strength. Due to this development he becomes able to do physical work and to play games he could not, when younger. Similarly the child at the time of his birth or in early childhood cannot be expected to perform such tasks that require high mental abilities.
As he advances in his age, his mental abilities and capacities gradually get developed and he becomes able to solve the problems, he could not when younger. The growth and development of the mental abilities and capacities which helps an individual to adjust his behaviour to the every changing environmental conditions or to enable him to accomplish a task that needs complex cognitive abilities is referred to as mental or cognitive development.
Actually, the process of the cognitive growth and development is responsible for the development of an individual's all cognitive, mental or intellectual abilities like sensation, perception, imagination, memory, reasoning, understanding, intelligence, generalization, interpretation, language ability, conceptual ability, problem solving ability and decision making ability etc. These abilities are interrelated and never develop in isolation. Therefore, cognitive or mental development of an individual at any stage of his development, includes the overall development of these abilities.
Definition of Cognitive Development
Cognitive development is the construction of thought processes, including remembering, problem solving, and decision-making, from childhood through adolescence to adulthood.
Development in various Aspects of Cognitive Development
Though the development in the areas of various abilities proceeds simultaneously and is continuous yet the studies have revealed possibility of the differences in the rate of overall mental development at various ages. Similarly it has been also noted that there is a possibility of greater growth and development in one aspect or area of mental activity than in other at one or the other stages of life.
1. Sensation and Perception:- Both sensation and perception are considered important aspects of one's cognitive development. Sensation are elementary impression gathered by sense organs. When these impressions are interpreted and some definite meanings are attached to them, they take the form of perception. In the beginning, the child lacks in sensation as well as in perception.
His sense organs are not developed. As a result, he cannot discriminate between things and understand their meaning. Focusing of the eye towards the lamp, bright coloured objects, etc. can be said a beginning of an infant's perceptual growth. Later on he distinguishes people from objects and then familiar people from stranger and in this way his environment, gradually becomes differentiated into perceived objects. These perceived objects become later on associated with a verbal sound that he can recognize when heard.
2. Concept Formation:- Acquisition of concept is another important aspects of the child's cognitive development. A concept is the generalized meaning that is attached to an object or idea. It is the result of one's perceptual experiences and involves both discrimination and generalization.
Discrimination begins early in life. Sometimes after, the child tries to generalize his perceptual experiences and thus begins to acquire concepts. Experience is a great factor in concept formation. In early childhood, the concrete experiences in the form of actual objects help the child in the formation of concepts. He tries to develop various concepts from direct experience.
In the later period, vicarious experience offered by reading, movies lectures, etc., also provide the base for concept formation. In the later years, it is not such that only new concepts are formed, the old concepts may also get a new shape. They may be broadened, developed or the wrong concepts can be altogether abandoned. Normally, in developing, concepts go from concrete can be altogether abandoned. Normally, in developing, concepts go from concrete to abstract, from vague to clear and from inexact to definite, depending on the type of experiences one receives as one grows older and older.
3. Development of Language:- Development of language adds to the cognitive growth and development of an individual. The growth and development in speech, vocabulary, length of response are some of the important aspects of language development.
At birth the child can utter some crying sounds. By the age of one and little later he may learn to speak a few words. After that speaking vocabulary increases rapidly. Much of the speech pattern, that the child learns, is the result of imitation of others in the environment. During the course of learning to speak it is possible that certain speech disorders like omissions, stuttering, stammering, etc. may develop. Therefore the partners as well as the teachers of small children must remain very cautious about this.
4. Development of Memory:- Memory is also an important aspect of mental or cognitive development. At birth, there is little memory; but gradually with maturation and experiences memory increases. Memory of an impressionistic kind appears in the first half of the year and instances of true remembrance appear by the end of the second year. During the first and second years, the memory is stronger for persons and objects than for situation. During early childhood, from 3 to 5 years, situations become significant factors in the child's memory. Also the emotional quality of the impressions influence memory. By 3 years the child can recount the story heard a few days ago and he can also give information about past experiences."
Therefore the child shows signs of memory from the early childhood. The memory which the child possesses in his young age, is generally a rote memory. He enjoys repetition and seldom uses logic and insight in memorizing a thing. During later childhood and adolescence the memory tends to function more logically and a selection process of remembering and forgetting begins to operate. In the later years of childhood memory tends to decrease. But from which age the downfall begins it is difficult to say with certainty. It varies from individual to individual and generally besides the age and health, the situation and stimuli which are associated with a particular kind of memory affects significantly, its remembrance or forgetting.
5. Development of Problem Solving Ability:- Problem solving ability is an important constituent of cognitive development. An individual needs this type of ability in discovering the solution of the problems faced by him. Both thinking and reasoning power are used in problem-solving. Therefore problem solving ability depends upon the development of thinking and reasoning. Thinking are reasoning powers begin to grow as early as two and one half or three years. The younger child deals more easily with the concrete than with the abstract. We cannot expects from him to solve complicated problems which require abstract thinking and more developed reasoning But gradually, he shows an increase in the ability to deal with abstract as he grows in age. He begins to compare and evaluate the ideas and solve the problems through the utilization of verbal symbols and imaginary concepts.
Various Aspects of Development
If we use the term growth and development synonymously, the major aspects or areas, in which a human child goes ahead for his complete development, can be named as follows:
1. Physical Development:- The physical development of the individual includes the development of his internal as well as external organs.
2. Intellectual or Mental Development:- It includes the development of intellectual powers like the powers of reasoning and thinking, imagination, concentration, creativity, sensation, perception, memory, association, discrimination and generalization etc.
3. Emotional Development:- Under this aspect, starting with the basic instinct, the evolution of various emotions takes place and also the emotional behaviour is developed to the point of emotional maturity.
4. Moral or Character Development:- Moral or character development includes the evolution of moral sense and development of character. The individual develops his ethical and moral codes.
5. Social Development:- Initially the child is selfish and antisocial. Gradually he is developed into a social being by learning to behave according to the rules and norms of his society and makes adjustment to it.
6. Language Development:- It includes the learning of the language for communication and the development of various skills and abilities for the effective use of language.