The problem of development of thinking in the early works of Jean Piaget
The task posed by the eminent Swiss psychologist J. Piaget (1896-1980) was to uncover the psychological mechanisms of holistic logical structures. But before he learned the hidden mental tendencies and outlined the mechanisms for their emergence and change.
With the help of the clinical method, Piaget studied the content and forms of children's thought: the child's original ideas about the world, the qualitative features of children's logic, the egocentric nature of children's thought.
The main achievement of Piaget is the discovery of the child's egocentrism as a central feature of thinking, a hidden mental position. The peculiarity of children's logic, children's speech, children's ideas about the world is the consequence of precisely this egocentric mental position.
The peculiarity of the child's conception of the world is that at a certain stage of his development he treats objects as they are perceived by them and does not see things in their internal relations. For example, a child, relating the position of the moon in the sky with his own movements in space, thinks that the moon follows him during his walks, stops when he stops, runs after him when he runs. This phenomenon Piaget called realism. It is this kind of realism that prevents a child from viewing things independently of the subject, in their internal interrelation. The child considers his instantaneous perception to be absolutely true. This is because children can not separate the view of their "I" on the surrounding world and individual things from the world itself and things themselves.
Realism can be of two types: intellectual and moral. For example, a child is sure that the swinging branches of trees make the wind. This is intellectual realism. Moral realism is expressed in the fact that the child does not take into account the internal intention in the assessment of the action and judges the deed only on the external effect, the material result.
Piaget believed that the development of ideas about the world goes in three directions: from realism to objectivity, from realism to reciprocity (reciprocity), from realism to relativism.Development of children's ideas, proceeding from realism to objectivity, consists in the fact that this development passes through several stages: participatory processes, animism (universal animation) and articulation (understanding natural phenomena by analogy with human activities), in which egocentric relationship between I and the world is gradually reducing.
Only after the realization of one's own position among things does the inner world of the child stand out and is opposed to the outside world.
In parallel with the evolution of children's ideas about the world, directed from realism to objectivity, there is a development of children's ideas from realism to reciprocity.
At this stage, the child discovers the points of view of other people, ascribes to them the same meaning as his own, establishes a certain correspondence between them. From that moment he begins to see reality no longer only as directly given to himself, but also as if established through coordination of all points of view taken together.
The child's thought develops also in the third direction - from realism to relativism. At first the child thinks that there are absolute substances and absolute qualities. Later, he realizes that the phenomena are related, and our estimates are relative. For example, at first the child thinks that in each moving object there is a motor through which this object moves, but then realizes that the movement of an individual body is the result of external forces.
Along with the qualitative originality of the content of the child's thought, egocentrism determines the following features of children's logic: syncretism (the tendency to connect everything with everything), conjunctions (the absence of a causal connection between judgments), transduction (transition from private to particular, passing general position) insensitivity to contradiction, etc. All these features of children's thinking have one common feature, which also depends internally on egocentrism. It consists in the fact that a child under 7-8 years old can not perform logical operations of class addition and multiplication.
Logical addition is the finding of a class that is least common to the other two classes, but contains both of these classes in itself, for example: animals = vertebrates + invertebrates .
Logical multiplication is an operation consisting in finding the largest class contained simultaneously in two classes, i.e. find a collection of elements common to the two classes, for example: Geneva + Protestants = Geneva Protestants
This inability is reflected in how children define concepts. It was experimentally established that each
the child's concept is determined by a large number of heterogeneous elements, not connected in any way with hierarchical relations. For example, a child, giving a definition of strength, says: "The power is when it is possible to carry many things." It is especially difficult for him to define such relative concepts as a brother, a right and left hand, a family, etc.
The inability to produce logical addition and multiplication leads not only to the fact that children give incorrect definitions to concepts, but also to the inconsistency of these definitions. The reason for this Piaget saw in the absence of equilibrium: the concept gets rid of the contradiction, when equilibrium is reached. He considered the criterion of stable equilibrium to be the reversibility of thought. According to the scientist, each mental action corresponds to a symmetrical action that allows us to return to the starting point.
In his early works, Piaget attributed the absence of the reversibility of thought to the child's egocentrism. But before turning to the description of this central phenomenon, let us dwell on another important feature of the child's psyche - the phenomenon of egocentric speech.
Piaget believed that children's speech is self-centered because the child speaks only "from his point of view" and does not try to understand the position of the interlocutor. For him, any one you meet is an interlocutor. The child is only interested in the appearance of interest. Verbal egocentrism manifests itself in that the child speaks without trying to influence the other and not realizing the difference in his point of view with the point of view of the interlocutor.
Egocentric speech does not cover the entire speech of the child. Its share depends, first, on the activity of the child himself, secondly, on the type of social relations established between the child and the adult, and between the children of the same age. Wherever the authority of the adult and the coercive attitude prevail, egocentric speech occupies a significant place. In the environment of peers, where there can be discussions and disputes, the percentage of such speech is reduced. With age, the coefficient of egocentric speech decreases independently of the environment. In three years it reaches the highest value (75%), from three to six years, egocentric speech gradually decreases, and after seven years completely disappears.
The significance of the experimental facts obtained in Piaget's research is that, thanks to them, the most important psychological phenomenon, the child's mental position, determining his attitude to reality, is revealed for a long time, little studied and unrecognized.
Piaget paid special attention to the egocentrism of cognition. He considered egocentrism as the inability of an individual to change his cognitive attitude towards a certain object, opinion or view.
The roots of egocentrism, in his view, lie in the lack of understanding by the subject of the existence of a point of view that is different from his point of view. This is because the subject is sure of the identity of the psychological organization of other people and his own.
Egocentrism can be cognitive, moral, communicative. Cognitive egocentrism characterizes the processes of perception and thinking. Moral egocentrism reflects the inability to perceive the moral actions and actions of others. Communicative egocentrism is observed in the transmission of information to other people and denies the existence of another meaning in the transmitted information.The initial egocentrism of cognition is not the hypertrophy of awareness of the "I", but, on the contrary, the direct relationship to objects where the subject, ignoring the "I", can not get out of the "I" to find his place in the world of relations , freed from subjective connections. Piaget believed that the decline in egocentrism is not due to an increase in knowledge, but to the ability of the subject to relate his point of view to others.
The transition from egocentrism (or, as Piaget later called it, centering) to decentration characterizes cognition at all levels of development. The universality and inevitability of this process allowed Piaget to call it the law of development.
To overcome egocentrism, it is necessary: first, to realize your "I" as a subject and separate the subject from the object; secondly, to coordinate their own point of view with others.
According to Piaget, the development of knowledge about oneself arises in the subject only with social interaction, i.e. under the influence of developing social relationships of individuals. The Piaget Society sees it as it stands for the child, i.e. as a sum of social relations, among which there are two extreme types: coercive relations and cooperative relations.
Relationships of coercion do not contribute to a change in mental positions. In order to realize my "I", one should be freed from coercion, in addition, the interaction of opinions is necessary. But the adult and the child at first can not achieve such interaction - the inequality between them is too great. Only individuals who consider themselves equal can exercise developing mutual control. Such relationships are possible among representatives of the same age, for example, in a children's collective, where relations begin to be formed on the basis of cooperation.
Cooperation relations are built on the basis of mutual respect. At once there is a need to adapt to another person and the need to realize the existence of another point of view. As a result, rational elements in logic and ethics are formed.
Another important concept that exists in the system of psychological views is socialization. According to Piaget, socialization is the process of adaptation to the social environment, consisting that the child, having reached a certain level of development, becomes able to cooperate with other people through the division and coordination of their point of view and other people's points of view. Socialization determines the decisive turn in the child's mental development - the transition from an egocentric position to an objective one. This transition takes place by 7-8 years.
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