Child’s immediate perception

Describe one theoretical approach to the understanding of religious development, and evaluate it in relation to other approaches, and in relation how well it accounts for the facts it claims to account for.┬áIn schools of psychology, religion is approached substantively or functionally. Substantive approaches define religion by its content or its specific practices. This allows focus upon issues such as belief in God, conversion, or prayer. Functional approaches define religion by specific processes that explain how religion operates in people’s lives. This essay will focus on the cognitive development of religion and other theoretical approaches will be introduced to provide a basis for the evaluation of the cognitive approach.

As we develop we are exposed to new experiences and problems as well as religious ideas. Our brain develops rapidly throughout childhood. At birth, we have little strength and coordination and are unable to explore the environment until we reach the age of crawling and walking. Our sexual development then brings new possibilities and problems, dramatically changing who we are, especially at puberty. There is also physical decline, loss of capacity, and death. Each of these physical changes has important implications for the religious life of the individual.Our cognitive development is effected by these physical changes. Children lack the cognitive capability to ask questions about life and death.

At a basic level, cognitive development involves a change in how the person knows, thinks, and believes. Changes in cognitive structure allow new assumptions about the nature of reality and ways of interpreting experiences. Jean Piaget identified that the consequences of these structural changes can be dramatic.Piaget (1926, 1953) used the observation of his children as they were growing up, for his research. He asked certain questions to his children at different ages about their experience of the world and he compared their responses. He also used logical problems for his children to solve in his research and recorded both their answers to the problems and also their reasoning behind the answers they gave.

Piaget assumed that the child’s most important task is to adapt to its physical and social environment.He assumed that this is achieved through a mixture of assimilation and accommodation the latter meaning that pre-existing cognitive structures are replaced with new ones rather than simply fitting in new ideas with those that already exist. Piaget’s concluded from his observations that, as a result of accommodation, the child develops four distinct ways of thinking. These four ways of thinking emerge in an orderly, invariant sequence of stages.The Sensorimotor stage ranges from birth to 2 years of age. It is characterised by the expression of internal needs like crying when hungry and cognitive attention to the world outside them will slowly increase. Only immediate experience exists; there is no distinction between oneself and the world outside.

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Predictable patterns of external events are soon learnt and the child starts to realise they have an effect on their immediate environment.Trial and error allows the child to investigate the function of objects. As the child still lacks language they have a difficult job of organising and keeping track of information they learn about their surroundings. As the child gets older and their knowledge of the world grows, they have a better understanding of cause and effect between events. At 18 months, a child can learn to anticipate the effect of pulling on the string of an action toy. This kind of exploration becomes more systematic through their second year, and, toward the end of the stage, the beginnings of symbolic thought are evident.The next is the preoperational stage ranging from 2 to 7 years of age and is typified by fantasy. The child now has language and their thinking now includes the use of symbols but it is still egocentric, magical, and limited to the child’s immediate perception.

Logical relations are not yet a concern. The preoperational child is not bothered if there are inconsistencies between two pieces of information.The concrete-operational stage ranges roughly from 7 to 11 years of age. This stage is an important change in a child’s perception as they realise that despite changes to the appearance or arrangement of an object the essential properties of that object remain the same.

The child can now recognise logical inconsistencies if they are represented in a concrete, tangible way. Children at this stage may begin to ask questions about the origins of life and death and they may even start to think about religious issues.The formal-operational stage begins at about 11 years of age. The child is now capable of abstract reasoning and using formal logic and symbolic language and metaphor can now be understood. Problems are now addressed systematically hypotheses’ testing is also possible at this stage of development.

The child can also recognise other people’s points of view even abstract issues like the existence of God and the purpose of life.There are major restrictions outlined by Piaget’s theory. If it is correct then children do not have the ability to ask the existential questions that are the basis of religion.

To confront the reality of the meaning of your life requires formal-operational thought. According to Piaget, the cognitive structures necessary for such thought do not exist until about age 11. As religious language is abstract and symbolic, and is beyond concrete, everyday experience, the young child cannot adequately understand it. Formal operations are required to understand this kind of language.Ronald Goldman (1964) came to a conclusion that teaching young children about religion is potentially dangerous.

If a young child encounters abstract religious language and concepts that the child cannot yet understand, they will make sense of this language using either the magical or literal thinking of their current stage. They will not understand the true meaning and purpose of the religious concepts and their understanding may be flawed.

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