Interesting you bring up Piaget. Piaget actually observed children engaged in various learning tasks at different developmental levels. Based on his observations, Piaget documented the progression of cognitive abilities in children for how he was able to understand the progressions at the time.
I respect Piaget’s method of reaching conclusions by observing children for how they actively interact with and interpret information and he made some valid contributions to helping us understand how children learn as they develop.
The problem is, Piaget observed far too few children to validate his conclusions and he based many of his conclusions on the observations of just his own three children. The small sample he did observe were solely children of well educated, affluent professional parents.
Another problem with Piaget and most psychological researchers is they have never observed the same set of developing children over time in multiple environments the way Jane Goodall observed the chimps. This is why we have better recorded observations of chimpanzees than of human children.
Furthermore, Goodall did not have preconceived notions of what she was looking for when she observed the chimps. She allowed the chimp’s behaviors to reveal their functions. We use bogus personality theories to define what the behaviors of children will mean before we ever observe the children.
We educators are taught to respond to children with a whole host of preconceived notions for what children’s behavior allegedly means. For example, instead of allowing a student’s behavior to reveal to us how the child understands and handles information, we are expected to use stock definitions of what behaviors mean to guide us in how to respond to the student. Predefining what a student’s behavior will mean before he exhibits the behavior is a form of entrapment and extremely uncomfortable for the child.
Psychological theories of personality are pretty chaotically described. To date, here is a list of the kinds of personality theories on the books: type theories, psychoanalytic theories, behaviorist theories, social cognitive theories, humanistic theories, biopsychologial theories, and evolutionary theory. All of these kinds of personality theories have famous psychologists who have contributed to them. They all rely on philosophical assumptions, not observational assumptions or assumptions derived from the scientific method for their validity.
Many psychologists fixate on fixed traits of people separate from any context, like being open vs. reserved, introvert vs. extravert, positive vs. negative, cautious vs. risk taker, calm temperament vs. fiery temperament, compliant vs. oppositional, etc. Each personality theorist fully discloses they don’t really know what a human personality is.
Psychologists are literally expected to choose which theory or combinations of theories they want to use, or not. There is no way to hold any practitioner or researcher accountable to any one theory.
This means if you go to a therapist for 5 years and then move, you will never find another one with the same framework for how he understands and treats you. It means students have no way of knowing how their various teachers will respond to them year to year because no two teachers are operating with the same framework for how to understand personality differences among students.
So cut to the memory/prediction framework theory of the brain posed by Jeff Hawkins. This theory does not make any philosophical or behavioral assumptions about humans. It just says, all the human brain can actively do is interact with information all day every day, interpret that information based on inferences it makes with the help of stored conceptual memories, and then form predictive conclusions for what to do next. In this light, behaviors are seen as tools with which the human brain takes in, interprets, and then acts on information. This theory means behaviors have no meaning in and of themselves and have no predetermined meanings. This theory says behaviors simply allow for predictions to be made and directs us to see behaviors for how they reveal how a child is able to understand, interpret and predict, not how open, reserved, calm, stressed, introverted, or extraverted, etc. they are.
Our current theories of behavior tell us we should be able to know, by observing behaviors, how appropriate or inappropriate, normal or abnormal, ordered or disordered, right or wrong, moral or immoral, any given child is being. These theories of behavior give no importance to how a child’s brain and body integrate. An assumption is made that human behaviors come pre-loaded with meanings and functions and communicative values. It says behavior x means y for every child who exhibits behavior x.
None of our psychological theories seek to understand why a child’s behaviors are crucially important and necessary to the child exhibiting the behaviors. Instead, we evaluate behaviors in a vacuum to figure out if a child is normal or abnormal. This is why we define children on the autism spectrum as having personality disorders. Because children with autism interact with information differently than the majority, it follows their behaviors will also be quite different. Yet instead of observing their behaviors to reveal to us how they interpret and predict, we observe their behaviors to reveal to us why they are ‘disordered.’ I am ashamed of this fact and dearly hope to change it.
Psychological theories of behavior and personality would be valid if every human child had the exact same brain and body.