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Yvette Cantu


How do we learn? How do we grow? Over the years, psychologists have studied to
great lengths the processes that humans go through as they progress from infancy to
adulthood. Several theories have emerged over time with three prominent ones. Jean Piaget
and Lev Vygotsky produced two important and distinct theories. Another important theory, the
information-processing theory, presents a completely different point of view. Each theory has is
differences from the other and gives insight into the developing human mind.
Jean Piaget believed that all children are curious and act as scientists in their never-
ending quest to build understanding about the world around them. He theorized that children
use schemes, which are constructs that children categorize events with. Examples of schemes
would be “play things”, “things I eat” and “things I don’t like”. Piaget’s next term was
assimilation, which is when children add things to one scheme or another, example, a child
having peanut butter for the first time and placing it in “things I eat”. Accomodation is when a
child modifies a scheme because they have assimilated something that requires the entire
scheme to be slightly redefined i.e. when a child learns that certain objects needs to be grasped
with two hands instead of only one. Information processing is a cognitive theoretical framework
that focuses on how knowledge enters and is stored and retrieved from our memory.

Cognitive psychologists believed that cognitive process influenced the nature of what is
learned. They considered learning as largely an internal process, not an external behavior
change (as behavior theorist thought). They looked into hoe we receive, perceive, store and
retrieve information. They believed that how a person thinks about and interprets what he/she
receives shapes what he/she will learn. All these notions comprise what is called information
processing theory. The focus of Piaget’s study was on the four main stages of development.
He believed that an individual goes through four main changes/stages in their life at birth and
ages two, seven, and eleven. The first stage is the Sensorimotor stage. From birth to
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approximately age two, children are highly aware of stimuli and begin to figure out how to
recreate them and what each one means. Senses and motor reflexes begin development.
Also, object permanence, the understanding that objects exist when they are not in sight

IPT describes how the learner receives information (stimuli) from the environment through
the senses and what takes place in between determines whether the information will continue to
pass through the sensory register, then the short term memory and the long term memory.
Certain factors would also determine whether the information will be retrieved or “remembered”
when the learner needs it.

The stages of Information Processing Theory involve the functioning of the senses, sensory
register, short term memory and the long term memory. Basically, IPT asserts three primary
stages in the progression of external information becoming incorporated into the internal
cognitive structure of choice.

The Three Primary Stages in IPT are: Encoding. Encoding Information is sensed, perceived,
and attended to. Storage is the second stage. Storage is information is stored for either a brief
or extended period of time, depending upon the process following encoding.the last stage is
Retrieval. Retrival is information is brought back at the appropriate time, and reactivated for use
on a current task, the true measure of effective memory. Historically, viable theoretical models
have been developed and applied throughout the history of the field of psychology in an attempt
to better understand how the human mind receives, processes, stores, and retrieves
information. Understanding how the human brain receives, processes, stores, and recalls
information is significantly important to psychological research of cognitive development and
identifying deficiencies in learning. The vast compilation of theoretical views regarding brain
functioning and cognitive development are sometimes overwhelming and contradictory,
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however a basic framework from valid and reliable theoretical views appears to be dominant
among the masses. Learning, memory, and cognition occur at any given time, when an
individual perceives, stores, encode, and retrieves information to or from the brain. When an
individual modifies and adjusts responses to preceding dilemmas, e.g. self-modification, in order
to deal with new problems, a person develops perception and reasoning skills to better deal with
similar future issues without recreating analogous errors. Encoding, strategy construction,
automaticity, and generalization, are the key aspects involved in an individual’s self-
modification. Regardless of any limitation or faults the information processing model of
cognition may hold, its broad influence is still prominent in modern psychology, education, and
cognitive science.George A Miller’s concepts of limited short-term memory capacity and
chunking are fundamental elements in various memory, learning, and information processing
theories. Though Miller was not directly responsible for the theoretical development of the
information processing theory, he greatly influenced the understanding of the process by
introducing concepts that still hold true in various modern psychological applications.