Piaget’s stages of cognitive development present a sharp contrast from the assumptions made by Bandura in the social learning theory. Piaget’s cognitive development theory asserts that there are four different stages children go through (Flinders University, 2013). In each stage, the child’s cognitive processes are continuing to develop. However, each stage of cognitive processes differs, with some stages being more rational than others. Yet through the development of cognitive stages, children learn about their environment and develop an understanding of the world. In contrast, Bandura’s social learning theory places a stronger emphasis on the child’s experiences. From this theoretical perspective, Bandura argues that children learn what behaviors and actions are appropriate based on what behaviors others exhibit (Gray & MacBlain, 2012).

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Although there are differences between the assumptions made under the cognitive learning theory and the social learning theory, there are also similarities. Bandura based the social learning theory heavily on his own research, especially his infamous Bobo doll study (Gray & MacBlain, 2012). In comparing the findings of this study to the cognitive development theory, Piaget would argue that children exhibit animism during this stage of development. As addressed by Flinders University (2013) animism is “the belief that everything that exists has some kind of consciousness” (para. 4). The application of animism to Bandura’s Bobo doll study would suggest that children who were exposed to the violent videos and then amended their behaviors accordingly may have believed that the Bobo doll was trying to hurt them or that the Bobo doll deserved to be punished (Gray & MacBlain, 2012). Yet Piaget further argued that children’s cognitive processes during this stage of development do not make sense from a rational adult perspective. However, as children age, their cognitive processes become more logical. Flinders University further concurs in arguing that by the time the child completes the formal operations stage (11-16 years old) he or she begins to exhibit logic, rational thinking, that is similar to an adult.

  • Gray C., MacBlain S. (2012) Learning Theories in Childhood. New York, New York: Pearsons.
  • Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development (2013) Retrieved from: rations