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Thursday, 29 November 2012 13:54


Written by David Sheppard
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Cognitive Development

Adolescent Thinking

Adolescent egocentrism

An aspect of adolescent thinking that leads young people (ages 10 to 14) to focus on themselves to the exclusion of others.

Adolescent Thinking

•     Personal fable

–     An adolescent’s belief that his or her thoughts, feelings, or experiences are unique, more wonderful or awful than anyone else’s.

•     Invincibility fable

–     An adolescent’s egocentric conviction that he or she cannot be overcome or even harmed by anything that might defeat a normal mortal, such as unprotected sex, drug abuse, or high-speed driving.

Adolescent Thinking

Imaginary audience

The other people who, in an adolescent’s egocentric belief, are watching and taking note of his or her appearance, ideas, and behavior.

This belief makes many teenagers self-conscious

Adolescent Thinking

            Formal operational thought

Piaget’s fourth and final stage of cognitive development, characterized by more systematic logic and the ability to think about abstract ideas.

            Hypothetical thought

Reasoning that includes propositions and possibilities that may not reflect reality. Reasoning about if-then propositions.

Adolescent Thinking

Deductive reasoning (top-down reasoning)

Reasoning from a general statement, premise, or principle, through logical steps, to figure out (deduce) specifics.

Inductive reasoning (bottom-up reasoning)

Reasoning from one or more specific experiences or facts to a general conclusion; may be less cognitively advanced than deduction.

Hypothetical-Deductive Reasoning

Intuitive, Emotional Thought

•      Adolescents find it much easier and quicker to forget about logic and follow their impulses.

•     Dual-process model

–     The notion that two networks exist within the human brain, one for emotional and one for analytical processing of stimuli.

Intuitive, Emotional Thought

Intuitive thought

Arises from an emotion or a hunch, beyond rational explanation, and is influenced by past experiences and cultural assumptions.

Analytic thought

Results from analysis, such as a systematic ranking of pros and cons, risks and consequences, possibilities and facts. Depends on logic and rationality.

Common Fallacies

Sunk cost fallacy

Mistaken belief that when a person has spent money, time or effort that cannot be recovered, they should continue to try to achieve the goal so that effort was not wasted.

    i.e. staying in a class that you are failing

Common Fallacies

Base rate neglect

A common fallacy in which a person ignores the overall frequency of a behavior or characteristic in making a decision.

    i.e. not wearing a bike helmet, despite statistics, until a friend is brain-damaged in a biking accident

Thinking About Religion

Most adolescents (71%) felt close to God

Most (78 %) were the same religion as their parents

Some adolescents (2%) are agnostic

Others (16%) are not religious

Adolescent religious beliefs tend to be egocentric, faith being a personal tool

Teaching and Learning

Secondary education

The period after primary education (elementary or grade school) and before tertiary education (college). It usually occurs from about age 12 to 18, although there is some variations by school and by nation.        

Middle school

A school for children in the grades between elementary and high school, usually grades 6-8.

Teaching and Learning

 Technology and Cognition

•      The digital divide is the gap between students who have access to computers and those who do not. In the United States and most developed nations, this gap has now been bridged due to computers in schools.

•      The Internet and other forms of electronic technology can accelerate learning, but what they have to teach may not always be beneficial.

The Dangers of Technology

•      Adolescent cognitive growth benefits from shared experiences and opinions.

•      Often communication via the Internet bolsters fragile self-esteem.

•      Adolescents sometimes share personal information online without thinking about the possible consequences.

•      Sexual abuse and addiction of technology can occur

The Dangers of Technology


•      occurs via Internet insults and rumors, texting, anonymous phone calls, and video embarrassment.

•      Some fear that the anonymity provided by electronic technology brings out the worst in people.

•      One expert on bullying believes that cyberbullying is similar to other forms, new in mode but not in intent or degree of harm.

The Dangers of Technology

Some teens use the Internet to pursue a secret action, such as extreme dieting, abusive prejudice or self-mutilation.


An addictive form of self-mutilation that is most common among adolescent girls and that correlates with depression and drug abuse.


The Transition to a New School

            Entering a New School

•      The transition from one school to another often impairs a young person’s ability to function and learn.

•      Changing schools just when the growth spurt is occurring and sexual characteristics are developing is bound to create stress.

Teaching and Learning

High School

•      In theory and sometimes in practice, high schools promote students’ analytic ability.

•      In the United States, an increasing number of high school students are enrolled in classes that are more rigorous and require them to pass externally scored exams.

•      Another manifestation of the trend toward more rigorous education is the greater number of requirements that all students must fulfill in order to receive an academic diploma.

Teaching and Learning

            High-stakes test

•      An evaluation that is critical in determining success or failure.

•      A single test that determines whether a student will graduate or be promoted

•      In 2009, 26 U.S. states required students to pass a high-stakes test in order to graduate.

Teaching and Learning

•      In the U.S., one result of pushing almost all high school students to pursue an academic curriculum is college preparedness.

•      Another result is that more students drop out of high school.

•      East Asian nations are moving in the opposite direction due to stressed out students.

Those Who Do Not Go To College

1/3 of U.S. high school students and 2/3 worldwide do not go to college

PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment)

–     A test designed to measure cognition needed in adult life.

Taken by many 15-year-olds in 50 countries to test how well they can apply what they have learned.  U.S. students tend to not do well.

Those Who Do Not Go To College