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Cognition and Development – Beyond Piaget

4. Social Interactions and Culture

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In this module, we think about the role that social interactions and culture play within cognitive development. We note that, while Piaget is often criticised for ignoring the impact of culture, his theory focusses above all on what he calls ‘necessary’ knowledge, i.e. a type of knowledge that remains constant across cultures (such as the conservation of number). We then explore how this notion of ‘necessary’ knowledge as universal can be complicated by considering the research of Russian psychologist Alexander Luria whose field studies in the Uzbek steppe from 1931 demonstrated the significant degree to which cognitive processes are culturally determined.


In this course, Dr Richard O’Connor (University of Hull) discusses different ideas within the field of cognitive development that go beyond the work of Jean Piaget. In module one, we introduce the violation-of-expectation looking time method as a research method which has revolutionised our understanding of infant cognition since the 1980s. We then look at a classic violation-of-expectation study by Baillargeon et al. (1985) in module two, before moving on to an evaluation of this research method in module three. Module four introduces an alternative set of ideas to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development which focuses on the role of social interactions and culture. The final two modules look at the socio-cultural theory of cognitive development proposed by Piaget’s contemporary Lev Vygotsky, focusing on the distinction between ‘elementary’ and ‘higher’ mental functions in module five and key concepts such as the ‘zone of proximal development’ in module six.


Dr Richard O'Connor is a cognitive developmental psychologist with research interests in cognition from infancy through to adulthood.

Particular areas of interest include theory of mind, representation of objects and actions, and word learning.

Dr O'Connor joined the University of Hull in August 2016, after completing his PhD at the University of Cambridge and teaching positions at Royal Holloway and the University of Oxford.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

O'Connor, R. (2019, December 16). Cognition and Development – Beyond Piaget - Social Interactions and Culture [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

O'Connor, Richard. "Cognition and Development – Beyond Piaget – Social Interactions and Culture." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 16 Dec 2019,

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