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Discussion 8:

Write about the readings and videos. What interests you about cognition and individual differences and why?

Kristens respond

Discussion 8
            Various theories have sought to present the means by which cognitive development occurs, particularly over the formative years in infancy through adolescence. Most notably, Piaget outlined the stages of progressively more complex cognitive processes that build upon those before through early adulthood and allow individuals to meet the increasing demands of life as they age (Crain, 2011). His perspectives have been expanded and challenged, as cognitive science seeks to address the specific ways we come to be equipped to engage in complex tasks and the means by which our abilities develop. Further, the process is quite obviously not entirely universal, as there are individual differences in aptitude that can be seen when comparing scores on standardized measures of IQ. While IQ tests have received critique, it still stands that individuals will differ on their abilities for different tasks; however, the factors that contribute to those differences are a matter unresolved in the literature.
            For instance, as a matter of sex, it has been shown that, in actuality, there are very few differences between men and women in regards to completion of commonly employed cognitive tasks (Galotti, 2017). Differences that do exist on a very small number of specific tasks, however this has yet to be thoroughly explained. As a matter of culture, it has been debated that various cognitive tasks may not be cross-culturally appropriate and may account for some individual differences; this has been proposed on the basis that cultural demands differ, as well as the environments, lending to the hypothesis that cognitive development necessarily occurs through environmental stimuli in a context-dependent way (Gardiner, 1998). However, this hypothesis has been challenged in studies indicating that cross-culturally participants from wildly different backgrounds can score similarly on cognitive tasks, even if the means by which they may approach the answer differs (Galotti, 2017). These findings are interesting and, more than suggesting a one-to-one development relationship between environment and cognition, instead suggest that context influences the particular processes one employs for a given task. Further, Galotti (2017) writes that while schooling may improve ones ability to verbalize the methods they use to complete a given task, it actually has been shown to have little bearing on the ability to complete tasks accurately.
            Ultimately, focusing on any one explanation will leave many blind spots, as human development is complex and occurs in conjunction with various factors that are both culture-specific and universal. It is difficult to thoroughly encapsulate the contributions to individual differences, and many factors will be uncontrollable by interventions meant to address disparity. Galotti (2017) does reference one study wherein results indicated SES accounted for a degree of the difference, and this seems an important area of focus in determining the degree to which we can help alleviate disparities through fostering equity in access to age-appropriate educational experiences, toys, and materials. So I suppose, if I were to answer what is most interesting about individual differences, it is how we come to identify those sources of difference that can be practically addressed and the means by which we go about doing so.
Crain, W. (2011). Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications (6th ed.). New York: Pearson Education, Inc.
Galotti, K. M. (2017). Cognitive psychology in and out of the laboratory. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Gardiner, H. W., Mutter, J. D., & Kosmitzki, C. (1998). Lives Across Cultures: Cross-Cultural Human Development. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

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