The term “cognition” is used often in the developmental psychology literature and it is probably never defined exactly the same way twice. Considering that cognitive events, processes, and structures are wholly invented concepts, it is interesting that the definitions are so similar. Cognition may refer to (1) “knowing” (Vasta, Haith, & Miller, 1992, p. 28); (2) “internal mental processes” (Dworetzky, 1993, p. 241); (3) “thought processes and mental activities, including attention, memory, and problem solving” (Butkatko & Daehler, 1992, p. 317); and (4) the “mental processes ... that human beings use to acquire knowledge of the world” (Scarr, Weinberg, & Levine, 1986, p. 133). Based on these definitions, it is possible to extract two common characteristics of cognition: It consists of (1) internal (mental) processes that (2) enable individuals to acquire knowledge of the world. On the surface, these “definitions” of cognition fail any test of objectivity because the events and processes to which they refer cannot be observed or measured, which means they cannot be directly analyzed. Therefore, in order to make sense of the study of cognitive development, we must look at the specific behaviors that occur in children when cognitive developmental psychologists speak of “cognition.”
KeywordsCognitive Development Operant Conditioning Search Behavior Behavior Analyst Object Concept
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