Reconsidering the role of overcoming perturbations in cognitive development: constructivism and consicousness

Human Development 47 (2):77-93 (2004)
Constructivist theory must choose between the hypothesis that felt perturbation drives cognitive development (the priority of felt perturbation) and the hypothesis that the particular process that eventually produces new cognitive structures first produces felt perturbation (the continuity of process). There is ambivalence in Piagetian theory regarding this choice. The prevalent account of constructivist theory adopts the priority of felt perturbation. However, on occasion Piaget has explicitly rejected it, simultaneously endorsing the continuity of process. First, I explicate and support this latter position, arguing that felt perturbation emerges after the construction of a new cognitive structure has already begun. Next, I discuss the broader significance of rejecting the priority of felt perturbation in terms of a distinction between two types of theory of effective change, labeled Lamarckian and Darwinian in analogy with familiar theories of evolutionary change. Rejecting the priority of felt perturbation allows the development of a Darwinian perspective. In turn, the Darwinian perspective offers advantages for elaborating the analogy Piaget proposed between consciousness and the relation of form and content.
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