What is a cognitive scheme

Basic concepts of Piaget's theory

According to Piaget, cognitive development is characterized by changeable and unchangeable components:
  • constantly changing Content,
  • changing according to the law of development Structures and
  • immutable Functions.

A cognitive one structure (Scheme) at Piaget consists of elements that are subject to certain structural laws. Such a structure is largely self-regulating, i.e. it represents an original wholeness and consists of a system of relationships and transformations. The cognitive structures consist of groups of Schemesthat change according to certain laws of development.

The Scheme is understood here as a typical human way of handling certain classes of environmental conditions. Such a scheme exists as a cognitive scheme, which is expressed in certain action schemes (e.g. the scheme of throwing, knocking, multiplying, etc.). Schemas turn objects of different types into similar ones (e.g. those that you throw, knock with, that you can multiply, etc.), thus making it easier for you to cognitively deal with the environment. Schemas become memory recorded in the memory and reactivated or called up for the recognition of objects as the essential features. The "Retrieval" problem of the memory or the internal stored representations is one of the (re) activations of the scheme.

David Rumelhart developed in "Schemata - the Building Block of Cognition" (1978) a general theory for the use of the schema conception in psychology and tried to illustrate this using everyday knowledge. His main thesis is that schemes serve to structure our knowledge - both for storage, for memory and for any embedding of knowledge in contexts or any formation and representation of knowledge. All cognitions, i.e. all knowledge, perceptions, interpretations have to do with the initiation, selection or application as well as checking of schemes, i.e. with the establishment, the formation of schemes and their application. For Rumelhart, the process of interpreting and interpreting in general consists in that possible configurations of schemes are selected and then checked, applied, and instantiated so that they coincide with certain data of a memory fragment or memory data of a selectively feature-controlled type or with corresponding external sensory data. An organism is always active and it scans its environment to determine whether certain trigger stimuli or certain information are of interest to it or correspond to its preferred goals.

Kant used the concept of the schema - which ultimately comes from philosophy - in his "Critique of Pure Reason" in a different way. For him a schema is the "product of the imagination" a priori, which conditions (enables) the unity of the perceptions and the (representational) "images", be it of the external sensory perceptions or of the internal ones. The function of the scheme or scheme is the "determination of sensuality", that is, the illustrated contents of what is perceptually recognized. According to Kant, it is about "the idea of ​​a method, to present a certain concept according to a set (...) in a picture" - namely a "procedure", a process rather than such a "picture itself". "This idea of ​​a general process of the imagination to provide a concept with its image, I call the scheme for this concept".

The Content are concrete objects to which the schemes can be applied (balls, stones, but also numbers, emotions, etc.). For Piaget, the content is of secondary interest, as it is constantly changing and showing too little regularity. This again shows the attitude that it is less important on which objects the individual develops his cognitive structures, since different things can be learned from the same objects and, on the other hand, the same can be learned from different objects.

See also the graphic representation of the modelon the entry page!

Piaget places the cognitive structures in the cognitive structures Functions across from. He understands functions as fundamental human possibilities to cope with the environment, which enable the human being to adapt to the environment. The essential function that leads to the formation of a structure is assimilation. Together with the second function, accommodation, this forms an overall cognitive process (adaptation).

assimilation essentially means actively interpreting, classifying or interpreting objects and events in the outside world in terms of one's own, currently available and preferred way of thinking about these things. In the beginning, assimilation is essentially the subject's use of the outside world to strengthen and deepen his innate or acquired schemata. Example: When a piece of wood becomes a ship for the child, it assimilates the piece of wood to his or her cognitive concept of the ship. Several forms of assimilation can be distinguished:

  • Reproductive assimilation: Children practice schemes by repeating them and thereby consolidating them.
  • Generalizing assimilation: The range of stimuli that can be assimilated into a scheme increases.
  • Recognizable assimilation: Objects are differentiated at the same time as the generalizations. When using different schemes, the child will notice that these different schemes obviously relate to different objects. The child recognizes an object insofar as it applies the appropriate (differentiated) scheme.
  • Mutual assimilation of the schemes: Schemas assimilate (coordinate) each other. so that broader, more organized schemes emerge.

The more reactive function of the Accommodation means taking the structure of external data into account. Accommodation only occurs when there is a discrepancy or disorder for which the organism does not yet have a proven scheme.

example: Does an infant have any visual element in the invariant Assimilate the pattern of a rattle (shaking makes a noise) and now grabs a similarly shaped piece of wood, then e.g. the auditory element of the rattle is absent. Then attention will turn to existing tactile or visual schemes that allow distinction. Once this distinction has been made, the new elements are linked with the old ones in the accommodation to form a new scheme, which in turn represents the starting point for further assimilations of future experiences.

Since even the simplest human plot Basically complex and therefore rarely one of the two functions can be clearly assigned to it, we encounter accommodation and assimilation at the same time with different weightings in every action.

Much of the growth of human consciousness is successive Formation of cognitive invariants. Only through the identification of such constant characteristics is it possible for the individual in the midst of constant movement and change to take a stand for himself Adaptations to find (identity).

A schema also allows a certain situation to be recognized by abstracting certain differences between the stored schema and the current context. This process of assimilation therefore only allows the perception of what fits into existing schemes. A scheme associates a specific activity with the current situation, and therefore leads to the expectation that the same activities will produce the same results. The human cognitive system is therefore not determined by the sensor input, but by internal (unobservable) expectations that channel cognitive activity. Because familiar situations only have to be recognized, but not always having to learn new reactions, cognition is accelerated to such an extent that it is able to act in real time. We live in a world of anticipation in which our internal framework of guesses and hypotheses leads us to expectations. If an expectation is confirmed, we can continue on the "path of thought" we have chosen. If the confirmation fails, we either change the sequence of the assumptions or modify the hypotheses ourselves. Ernst von Glasersfeld later developed this schematic theory further in his constructivist approach from a psychological perspective.

Schemas are the result of attempts to cope with the environment through accommodation and assimilation.

Using the functions of accommodation and assimilation, the cognitive structures (schemes) are developed while dealing with the content. Fits a scheme well to a new content, the proportion of assimilation in the adaptation is greater. When a scheme cannot be applied to a new object, the scheme must be adapted to new circumstances by means of accommodation, the proportion of assimilation is low.

The stages of cognitive development are characterized by the quality of the schemes available to the individual to cope with the environment.

On the 1st level these are sensu-motor schemes, on the 2nd these sensu-motor schemes are internalized (interiorized), so they no longer have to be carried out in a motorized manner, but can also be carried out in the mind (walking through a house wall). However, they are still tied to specifically presented content - hence the name concrete level. At the 3rd level, independence from concrete content, and indeed from content in general, is achieved: signs stand for abstract, formal mental operations (e.g. 3rd3=27).

The tendency of the schemes to assimilate whenever they can keeps development going (curiosity).

For Piaget it is in the nature of all schemes that they strive to be applied to other, new content. This is expressed in those described by Piaget Circular reactions. The primary circular reaction occurs when an action (read, scheme) that has led to a pleasant outcome is repeated (for example, when the infant keeps kicking to hear the bells hanging on the bed continue to ring).
A secondary circular reaction is given if the action is repeated later on the same occasion. In this way, this scheme of action is practiced.
A tertiary circular reaction is used when the activated scheme is varied spontaneously, quasi "to see what happens then". In this way the child - and also the adult - discovers new possibilities.

The establishment of a balance (equilibration) is a basic tendency of life and a motor of development.

If the person constantly tries to apply his schemes of action to new objects (contents), it is in order to achieve appropriateness and balance. Because the target state is a balance - e.g. between schema and content, but also between the individual and the world, upper-schema and sub-schema, etc. Since humans cannot live without this balance, but the balance that has just been achieved is repeatedly called into question by ever new environmental conditions, the adaptation of the schemes and structures is triggered again and again. This is where Piaget sees it Engine of human development.

No cognitive structure is final: man always constructs new schemes, differentiates old ones and integrates them into new ones.

So the structures are according to Piaget preliminary concepts or attempts at copingwhose expediency must first be proven: whether one "comes to terms with the world" with them. Hence there can be no final cognitive structure, even if the individual has already reached the highest level of intelligence development. Development therefore still takes place at an advanced age, even if Piaget has not empirically investigated these phases of life. What is now true for the individual is also true for science as such. Here, too, concepts and models are developed that first have to prove their appropriateness, which all too often is not the case. It is the fate of human cognitive activity to be constantly on the lookout: All knowledge is relative.


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