Cognitive development is a field of study in neuroscience and psychology focusing on a child’s development in terms of information processing, conceptual resources, perceptual skill, language learning, and other aspects of brain development and cognitive psychology.
A large portion of research has gone into understanding how a child conceptualizes the world. Jean Piaget was a major force in the founding of this field, forming his “theory of cognitive development”. Many of his theoretical claims have since fallen out of favour.
However, his description of the general tendencies of cognitive development e.g., that it moves from being dependent on actions and perception in infancy to understanding of the more observable aspects of reality in childhood to capturing the underlying
abstract rules and principles in adolescence is still generally acceptable. Moreover, many of the phenomena that he discovered, such as object permanence in infancy and the conservations in school age children, are real and still attract the interest of researchers.
In the recent years alternative models have been advanced, including the neo-Piagetian theories of cognitive development, which aim to integrate Piaget’s ideas which stood up well the test of time with more recent theorizing and methods in developmental and cognitive science.
A major controversy in cognitive development has been “nature vs. nurture”, or nativism versus empiricism. However, it is now recognised by most experts that this is a false dichotomy: there is overwhelming evidence from biological and behavioural sciences that from the earliest points in development, gene activity interacts with events and experiences in the environment.
Therefore the “vs.” is false: there is no dichotomy Another question is how culture and social experience relate to developmental changes in thinking. Another question is phylogenic convergence or homology with non-human animals. Most aspects of learning and cognition are similar in humans and non-human animals. These issues propagate to nearly every aspect of cognitive development.