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cognition  The mental activity through which human beings acquire and process knowledge.
schema (Plural, schemata)   A cognitive structure, or an organized group of interrelated memories, thoughts, and strategies that the child uses to try to understand a situation; a schema forms the basis for organizing actions to respond to the environment.
operations  Schemata based on internal mental activities.
organization  The predisposition to combine simple mental structures into more complex systems.
adaptation  The individual's tendency to adjust to environmental demands.
assimilation  Molding a new experience to fit an existing way of responding to the environment.
accommodation  Modifying an existing way of responding to the environment to fit the characteristics of a new experience.
sensorimotor period  Piaget's first stage of cognitive development, during which children move from purely reflexive behavior to the beginnings of symbolic thought and goal-directed behaviors.
reflex activity  An infant's exercise of growing proficiency in the use of innate reflexes.
primary circular reactions  Behaviors in which infants repeat and modify actions focused on their own bodies that are pleasurable and satisfying.
secondary circular reactions  Behaviors focused on objects outside the infant's own body that the infant repeatedly engages in because they are pleasurable.
coordination of secondary schemata  An Infant's combination of different schemata to achieve a specific goal.
tertiary circular reactions  Behaviors in which infants experiments with the properties of external objects and try to learn how objects respond to various actions.
inventing new means by mental combination  In this last stage of the sensorimotor period, children begin to combine schemata mentally, thus relying less on physical trial and error.
symbolic thought  The use of mental images to represent people, objects, and events.
deferred imitation  Mimicry of an action some time after having observed it; requires that the child have stored a mental image of the action.
object permanence  The notion that objects and people continue to exist independent of our seeing or interacting with them.
preoperational period  In this period, the symbolic function promotes the learning of language; the period is also marked by egocentricity and intuitive behavior, in which the child can solve problems using mental operations but cannot explain how he did so.
symbolic function  The ability to use symbols, such as images, words, and gestures, to represent objects and events in the world.
preconceptual stage  The first substage of Piaget's preoperational period, during which the child's thought is characterized by animistic thinking and egocentricity.
animistic thought  The attribution of life to inanimate objects.
egocentrism  The tendency to view the world from one's own perspective and to have difficulty seeing things from another's viewpoint.
intuitive stage  The second substage of the preoperational period, during which the child begins to solve problems by means of specific mental operations but cannot explain how she arrives at the solutions.
conservation  The notion that altering an object's or a substance's appearance does not change its basic attributes or properties.
reversibility  The notion that one can reverse or undo a given operation, either physically or mentally.
centration  Centering one's attention on only one dimension or characteristic of an object or situation.
horizontal decalage  The notion that unevenness in children's cognitive achievements reflects the fact that understanding the conservation of different objects, substances, or qualities requires different levels of the capacity for abstraction.
concrete operations period  Period in which the child acquires such concepts as conservation and classification and can reason logically.
formal operations period  Period in which the child becomes capable of flexible and abstract thought, complex reasoning, and hypothesis testing.
mediators  According to Vygotsky, psychological tools and signs like language, counting, mnemonic devices, algebraic symbols, art and writing.
elementary mental functions  Functions with which the child is endowed by nature, including attention, perception, and memory.
higher mental functions  Functions that reply on mediators that have become increasingly sophisticated through the child's interaction with his environment.
zone of proximal development (ZPD)  According to Vygotsky, the difference between the developmental level a child has reached and the level she is potentially capable of reaching with the guidance or collaboration of a more skilled adult or peer.
scaffolding  Based on Vygotsky's thought, an instructional process in which the teacher continually adjusts the amount and type of support he offers as the child continues to develop more sophisticated skills.
egocentric speech  According to Vygotsky, a form of self-directed dialog by which the child instructs herself in solving problems and formulating plans; as the child matures, becomes internalized as inner speech.
inner speech  Internalized egocentric speech that continues to direct and regulate intellectual functioning.

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