Cognitive transitions

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COGNITIVE TRANSITIONS________________________________________________


Steinberg, Laurence, "Cognitive transitions", en 'Adolescence, Boston, McGraw-Hill College, 1999, pp. 58-62.

(Keating, 1990): 1. Adolescents become better able than children to think about what is possible, instead of limiting their thought to what is real. 2. Adolescents becomebetter able to think about abstract things. 3. Adolescents begin thinking more often about the process of thinking itself. 4. Adolescents' thinking tends to become multidimensional, rather than being limited to a single issue. 5. Adolescents are more likely than children to see things as relative, rather than as absolute. Let's look at each of these advantages-and some of their implications-ingreater detail.


hanges in cognition, or thinking, represent the second in a set of three fundamental changes that

occur during adolescence-the others being the biological changes of puberty and the transition of the adolescent into new social roles. Like developments in the other two domains, the cognitive transitions of adolescence have far-reaching implications for the young person'spsychological development and social relations. Indeed, the expansion of thought during adolescence represents as significant an event and as important an influence on the adolescent's development and behavior as puberty.• CHANGES IN COGNITION

THINKING ABOUT POSSIBILITIES Most people would agree that adolescents are "smarter" than children. Not only do teenagers know more than children-after all,the longer we live, the more opportunities we have to acquire new information-but adolescents actually think in ways that are more advanced, more efficient, and generally more effective. This can be seen in five chief ways An adolescent's thinking is less bound to concrete events than is that of a child. Children's thinking is oriented to the here and now-that is, to things and events that theycan observe directly. But adolescents are able to consider what they observe against a backdrop of what is possible. Put


COGNITIVE TRANSITIONS________________________________________________ another way, for the child, what is possible is what is real; for the adolescent, what is real is but one subset of what is possible. Children, for example, do not wonder the way adolescents oftendo, about the ways in which their personalities might change in the future or the ways in which their lives might be affected by different career choices. For the young child, you are who you are. But for the adolescent, who you are is just one possibility of who you could be. This young does not mean have that vivid the and child is of people forget this one) and then

proceeding on to one-chipcombinations (R, B, Y, G), two-chip combinations (RB, RY, RG, BY, BG, YG), three-chip combinations (RBY, RBG, RYG, BYG), and finally the single fourchip combination (RBYG). More important, you probably did not approach the problem haphazardly. You probably employed an abstract system for generating possibilities that you had in mind before being faced with the poker-chip problem-a system that youcan apply across a variety of similar tasks. Although preadolescent children might be able to solve the problem correctly-in the sense that they might, with luck, generate all the possible combinations-children are far less likely than teenagers to employ a systematic approach (Neimark, 1975). The adolescent's ability to reason

incapable of imagination or fantasy. Even children creativeimaginations. Nor does it mean that children are unable to conceive of things being different from the way they observe them to be. Rather, the advantage that adolescents enjoy over children when it comes to thinking about possibilities is that adolescents are able to move easily between the specific and the abstract, to generate alternative possibilities and explanations systematically, and to compare...
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