Adolescence: Cognitive Development

Adolescent Thought

Intellectual Powers

    * Piaget thought adolescents begin to reach formal operational thought.
    * In Piaget's theory formal operational thought is the 4th & final stage of cognitive development 
due to maturation.
    * Adolescents demonstrate a capacity for hypothetical thought, that is, thought that involves 
reasoning about propositions that may or may not reflect reality.

     * Types of reasoning: (Basic Logic)

          -   Inductive - reasoning from one or more specific experiences or facts to a general conclusion.
          - Deductive - reasoning from a general statement or principle, through logical steps, to a specific 
conclusion. A standard test of deductive reasoning is Piaget's balance-scale task.
    * Adolescents make the step up from inductive reasoning to deductive reasoning. 

Ψ   The dual – process model of cognition has two modes: intuitive & analytic.

•  The intuitive mode begins with prior belief, past experience, or common assumption, rather than with a logical premise

•  The analytic mode is the formal, logical. Hypothetical-deductive thinking described by Piaget.

Thinking About Oneself  or  Its All About Me
    Adolescent egocentrism is a characteristic of adolescent thinking that sometimes leads young people 
to focus on themselves to the exclusion of all others, believing that their thoughts, feelings, or 
experiences are unique.

    False assumptions of the adolescent egocentric follow:
          The Invincibility Fable
            The Personal Fable - uniqueness & assured success
              The Imaginary Audience - everyone is watching me 

Ψ   Sunk-cost Fallacy (another example of the difficulty of thinking scientifically.)

•   When one makes a hopeless investment, one sometimes reasons: I can’t stop now, otherwise what I’ve invested 
so far will be lost. This is true, of course, but irrelevant to whether one should continue to invest in the project. 
Adolescents are better than younger children at recognizing this fallacy.

Schools, Learning, & The Adolescent Mind

What kind of school?
     One that offers the optimum person-environment fit (the degree to which a particular environment is 
conducive to the growth of a particular individual) is the way to go.

The Adolescent Mind in the School Setting
    Instead of an appropriate person-environmental fit, a volatile mismatch forms between many adolescents 
& their schools.

      When compared to elementary schools most secondary schools have

    * more rigid behavioral demands.
     * more punitive grading practices.
      * less individualized attention & procedures.

      Secondary school teachers see themselves as less effective ( they are ) Their students tend to 
see then as

    * less friendly.
     * less caring.
      * less helpful.

In middle school injuries increase & achievement decreases.

      By the end of high school, injuries decrease & achievement rises because

    *   the lowest achievers have dropped out.
     * the students have become more intellectually mature.
      * the person-environment fit improves with more freedom of choice.

Culture & Schools

     Educational goals ( and therefore educational content ) differ by culture. In Texas, it would 
seem social promotion is out, as students are measured against minimum standards. The 
competition model is alive & well, but can be tempered by cooperative learning, examples follow.
    - team research projects
     - in class discussion groups
      - after school study groups

Note: The school's culture and climate, along with family attitude, rather than the adolescent's innate 
ability, are the prime ingredients for academic success.

Note: Intended curriculum refers to the content that educational leaders prescribe, implemented curriculum 
means what the teachers & the school administration offers, & attained curriculum refers to what students learn. 
Attained learning, of course, is crucial, intentions & implementation should be readjusted until students are learning 
as they should. 

     Part-time employment for the "money" or for any reason for that matter is probably NOT 
in the best interest of an adolescent.

Adolescent Decision Making

    Until adulthood, most people don't make major decisions alone. They are more likely to be 
influenced by parents (family), teachers, cultural values, or stuck by inertia.

    Adolescents need protection from poor judgments because:
     •  they have difficulty weighing risk against opportunity.
      •  the consequences of their choices are more serious. (their choices are long-lasting).
       •   for them immediate gratifications override long term consequences.

Choosing Risky Sex

    * Sexually Transmitted Diseases
     * Unwanted Pregnancy
      * The danger of Intense Commitment.

There IS a Need for Better Sex Education.

Key Questions

1.  What are some of the behavioral consequences of adolescent egocentrism?
2.  Why are adolescents particularly concerned about the imaginary audience?
3.  What characteristics of the balance-scale question make it a measure of cognition?
4.  What are the advantages of intuitive thought?
5.  How might intuition and analysis lead to opposite conclusions?
6.  Why are middle schools called developmentally regressive?
7.  Why are transitions a particular concern for educators?
8.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of high-stakes testing?
9.  What are the most motivating features of a good secondary school?
10.  What factors increase and decrease the likelihood of school violence?
                                                     Robert C. Gates