Not stages, but variability ranges: Cognitive variability bridging complexity science and 'Piaget's new theory'

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterAcademic


Cognitive development has been hypothesised to be stagelike (e.g., Piaget) between the ages of 5-8. Yet, cognition varies from moment to moment, at every age, in every task, for every child. Studies have demonstrated that cognitive variability is non-trivial, non-random, and meaningful.
Cognitive variability refers to the differences in cognitive performance within an individual, such as moment-to-moment within a task or between sessions. In the study of complex dynamical systems, variability plays a major role. It is related to a system’s dynamic organisation, and important dynamical features such as predictability, complexity, and rigidity of cognitive skills. In addition, it has been demonstrated to be related to developmental transitions in various contexts, from problem solving to psychopathology. However, attempts for systematic and large-scale longitudinal measurements of cognitive variability have scarcely been undertaken.
Perhaps surprisingly, Piaget acknowledged the limits of developmental stages and worked on improving his theory using the latest scientific discoveries of his time. Piaget’s “new theory", opens a way to interpret his work dynamically.
This project’s goal is to create a more detailed empirical record and dynamical account of variability in cognitive development of children to improve our understanding of this phenomenon and its connection to early dynamic systems thinking. We aim to do this with a 3-year longitudinal and multimodal data collection of 60 children starting at 5 years of age. Tasks are selected to link microscale analyses of variability size and shape to cognitive transitions and developmental theory, across a wide repertoire of cognitive functions. Half-yearly measurements will be complemented with periods of daily measurements. Our ultimate aim is to build a variability corpus in which we can study variability patterns, the dynamic organisation of developmental systems, and developmental transitions, and to connect our findings to “Piaget’s new theory”. Our poster will present some of our methodology.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 22-Sept-2023
EventMovement and dyadic interactions in infancy: novel tools and approaches - Warsaw, Poland
Duration: 21-Sept-202322-Sept-2023


ConferenceMovement and dyadic interactions in infancy: novel tools and approaches

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