By D. G. Boyle (Auth.)
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Additional resources for A Students' Guide to Piaget
Clearly what has happened is that the secondary circular reactions have become differentiated, with the means subordinated to the end, whereas previously the end and the means formed part of one secondary reaction. We may therefore talk of the establishment and co-ordination of secondary schemata, as the schema of pushing is employed in order to make possible the schema of grasping. The baby's perceptual world now shows a simple organization: the fact that he removes obstacles to reach desired objects shows that the baby understands that some things are spatially in front of others.
This facility makes it possible for him mentally to perform the compensating changes and see how he can return to his starting point. The development of decentring is slow because at first the child, when he attempts to think out a problem, repeats in his head the sequence of actions that he has actually performed or seen others perform. It is probably through play, involving the manipulation of materials, assisted by his increasing facility in the use of language (which enables him to analyse what he is doing) that the child develops his understanding of reversibility; but this does not mean that intellectual development is solely a matter of environmental stimulation because the maturation of intellectual structures is vital in this respect.
Basically the same problems can be solved, but children solve them in different ways according to the stage or phase that they have attained. Piaget describes this sort of temporal gap as a vertical decalage. Whereas the idea of horizontal decalage points out the danger of regarding intellectual performance at any one stage as homogeneous, the notion of vertical decatage warns us not to regard intellectual activity at different stages as too heterogeneous. Moreover, the existence of these decalages poses a fundamental problem for anyone who tries to expound development stage by stage.