Adolescence Cognitive Development

Adolescence Cognitive Development

Formal Operational Thought

As explained before changes in cognitive ability usually occur progressively, rather than stage-like shifts. Formal reasoning development follows a similar path. A novel approach to account for improvement in reasoning ability is to consider an information processing view. Mainly, improvements in the capacity of the working memory are responsible for better reasoning ability. This in turn is related to greater speed with which material is processed. In short, faster processing speed gives rise to better working memory functioning that in turn increases general reasoning ability.

One other important change is the ability to filter unwanted stimuli. This is primarily referred to as “attentional control”. Middle childhood and early adolescence marks the period in which children continue to get better at filtering away irrelevant stimuli during tasks that required focused attention such as problem solving.  They learn how to focus their attention on what is important and most relevant to the task at hand. Achieving this goal successfully means ignoring, not only stimuli present in the immediate environment but material they already know and have learned previously (internal stimuli). This opens the way for increasing flexibility to learning new things. The increased capacity for formal thought influences many aspects of adolescent life, such as learning academics, controlling their emerging social lives and relationships to their understanding of religion, politics, and a sense of self.

Advances in metacognitive skills: Thinking about thought

Thinking about one’s own thought processes (meta cognition) is an ability that emerges in early adolescence. The underlying capacity for formal operational thinking gives adolescents the chance at introspection and self analysis of one’s thoughts and behaviors. This analytic style of thinking, puts the adolescents in an investigative-evaluative mode, not only becoming aware of their own thinking but securitizing their own beliefs using an objective and scientific manner. The emergence of self-criticism, negativity and subsequent low self-esteem that occurs in this period is largely influenced by the increased metacognitive ability. Selfishness and geocentricism present in adolescents is seen as another by-product of metacognition.

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