Chapter 5: Cognitive Development in Infancy


In Piaget's theory, actions or mental representations that organize knowledge.


Piagetian concept of using existing schemes to deal with new information or experiences


Piagetian concept of adjusting schemes to fit new information and experiences


Piaget's concept of grouping isolated behaviors and thoughts into a higher-order, more smoothly functioning cognitive system


a mechanism that Piaget proposed to explain how children shift from one stage to the next

sensorimotor stage

The first of Piaget's four stages of cognitive development (covering roughly the first 2 years of life), during which the child develops some motoer coordination skills and a memory for past events

simple reflex

Piaget's first sensorimotor substage, which corresponds to the first month after birth. In this substage, sensation and action are primarily through reflexive behaviors.

first habits and primary circular reactions

Piaget's second sensorimotor substage, which develops between 1 and 4 months of age. In this substage, the infant coordinates sensation and two types of schemes: habits and primary circular reactions.

primary circular reactions

a scheme based on the attempt to reproduce an event that initially occurred by chance

secondary circular reactions

Piaget's third sensorimotor substage, which develops between 4 and 8 months of age. In this substage, the infant becomes more object-oriented, moving beyond preoccupation with the self.

coordination of secondary circular reactions

Piaget's fourth sensorimotor substage, which develops between 8 and 12 months of age. Actions become more outwardly directed, and infants coordinate schemes and act with intentionality.

tertiary circular reactions, novelty, and curiosity

Piaget's fifth sensorimotor substage, which develops between 12 and 18 months of age. In this substage, infants become intrigued by the many things that they can make happen to objects

internalization of schemes

Piaget's sixth and final sensorimotor substage, which develops between 18 and 24 months of age. In this substage, the infant develops the ability to use primitive symbols.

object permanence

The Piagetian term for understanding that objects and events continue to exist, even when they cannot directly be seen, heard, or touched.

A-not-B error

Error that occurs when infants make the mistake of selecting the familiar hiding place (A) rather than the new hiding place (B) of an object as they progress into substage 4 in Piaget's sensorimotor stage.

core knowledge approach

Theory that infants are born with domain-specific innate knowledge systems.


The focusing of mental resources on select information.

joint attention

process that occurs when individuals focus on the same object and are able to track another's behavior, one individual directs another's attention, and reciprocal interaction takes place


A central feature of cognitive development, pertaining to all situations in which an individual retains information over time.

implicit memory

memory without conscious recollection; involves skills and routine procedures that are automatically performed

explicit memory

memory of facts and experiences that individuals consciously know and can state

deferred imitation

imitation that occurs after a delay of hours or days


cognitive groupings of similar objects, events, people, or ideas


a form of communication, whether spoken, written or signed, that is based on a system of symbols

infinite generativity

the ability to produce an endless number of meaningful sentences using a finite set of words and rules


the sound system of the language, including the sounds that are used and how they may be combined


units of meaning involved in word formation


the ways words are combined to form acceptable phrases and sentences.


Meaning of words and sentences


the appropriate use of language in different contexts

telegraphic speech

the use of short and precise words without grammatical markers such as articles, auxiliary verbs, and other connectives

Broca's area

an area of the frontal lobe, usually in the left hemisphere, that directs the muscle movements involved in speech

Wernicke's area

an area of the left hemisphere where the temporal and parietal lobes meet, involved in speech comprehension


loss or impairment of the ability to understand or express language

language acquisition device (LAD)

Chomsky's term for a hypothesized mental structure that enables humans to learn language, including the basic aspects of grammar, vocabulary, and intonation.

child-directed speech

language spoken in a higher pitch than normal with simple words and sentences