Cognitive development is the process through which an individual constructs the thought process. Specialists in cognitive development examine how growth and intellectual changes affect and influence a person’s behavior. This is achieved by studying the cognitive development of the memory, learning, language, problem solving techniques and intelligence.
Memory can be defined as the capacity of a human being to encode, keep and remember information over a period of time. Memory can be classified as short, working, long-term and episodic memory. Various studies show that the human memory develops and changes with the age of an individual.
The volume of the human brain increases fourfold during growth resulting to marked improvement in motor, cognitive and perceptual abilities. The physical growth of the brain affects the behavioral changes throughout the growth process.
The relationship between memory and age forms an inverted U shaped curve where the memorizing ability increases from childhood to adolescent and then starts to decline at old age (Shing & Lindenberger, 2011). Human memory capacity varies with the age of an individual. Young people remember more easily as opposed to older people (Alan, Castel, David & McCabe, 2011).
Memory development is also greatly affected by hereditary or inborn traits as chromosomes inherited from parents determine the growth sequence, puberty and aging of an individual. Environmental aspects such as the social environment, nutrition, diseases, autism and timing have considerable impact on memory development.
It has also been observed that, depression and anxiety affect the pattern which neurons flow subsequently affecting the memory growth (Alan et al, 2011).
Metacognition can be defined as the knowledge and regulation of one’s own thoughts. It is thinking about one’s own thoughts and the ability to regulate or control these thoughts. The main areas of metacognition are;
- Metacognitive knowledge: This entails the beliefs, facts and episodes about cognition such as remembering obvious things.
- Metacognitive monitoring: This involves assessing an ongoing cognitive activity.
- Metacognitive control: This entails regulating or controlling an ongoing activity such as changing the mind stream or stopping an activity (Wolfgang, 2008).
Metacognitive abilities develop from childhood to adulthood. Generally, increase in metamemory increases with age and is related to improvement and advancement observed at different ages. As children grow, they show increasing awareness about their memory and are able to regulate the thought process. Increase in metacognition results to increased ability to recall an event.
At very young age, below 7 years, the children have low metacognitive aspects and they depend on simple tactics to remember such as visual or verbal terminologies. As they grow, they learn how to use different strategies to remember such as categorizing different things. During adolescent, most of the items are not just kept in mind but processed more deeply.
The main inborn factors that affect metacognitive development are age, memory and hereditary factors. The environmental factors affecting metacognition are training and one’s own perception about the thinking process (Anastasia, 2006).
Language can be defined as the human ability to acquire complex communications skills. Various theories have been put forward to explain the ability of an individual to learn language but none can explain the process in a holistic manner. Chomsky-Noam theory purports that children are born with an innate knowledge of language and learning occurs faster because they hear sounds from others.
The theory asserts that a child is born with a language acquisition device (LAD) in the brain which enables them to aspire to learn languages. The social learning theory asserts that the child imitates the words and language patterns by listening and watching models. Brain researches have also shown that the brain of a child is more plastic and flexible and this is related to the critical period when the child begins to learn how to speak.
At the age of 3 years, most children are proficient with their native language and the process continues to increase rapidly at preschool where they are able to construct complex sentences. At an old age, the ability to learn diminishes. Language development is influenced by inborn and environmental factors. Hereditary traits affect growth and language acquisition skills as some individuals learn faster than others.
Environmental factors play an imperative role in language development as the child acquires communication skills from his tutors. An environment free of abuse and excess stress is required for the child to develop good communication skills (Miller, 2006).
From the three cognitive development functions studied, it can be seen that these functions develop rapidly during childhood and adolescent. During this period, the brain and other parts of the body are rapidly increasing as the individual experiences physical and cognitive development. Hereditary and inborn traits passed on from parents affect the child cognitive development rate.
Some individuals achieve maturation faster than others due to inborn traits. Biological changes in the brain also affect cognitive development process. Lastly, the environment which an individual is subjected has a direct influence on cognitive development. Individuals subjected to stress, diseases and abusive environments tend to have inhabited cognitive growth.
Alan, D., Castel, K., David, A., & McCabe, D. (2011). The Development of Memory Efficiency and Value-Directed Remembering Across the Life Span: A Cross-Sectional Study of Memory and Selectivity. Developmental Psychology, 47(6), 1553–1564.
Anastasia, E. (2006). Metacognition and affect: What can metacognitive experiences tell us about the learning process? Educational Research Review, 1(1)3-14.
Miller, A. 2006. Developmental Relationships Between Language and Theory of Mind. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. 15(1),142–154.
Shing, L.& Lindenberger, U.(2011). The Development of Episodic Memory: Lifespan Lessons, Child Development Perspectives, 5, (2), 148–155.
Wolfgang, S. (2008). The Development of Metacognitive Knowledge in Children and Adolescents: Major Trends and Implications for Education. International Mind, Brain, and Education Society and Wiley Periodicals. 2(3), 114-121.