Neuroconstructivist theory is a theoretical framework that views the psychological development of people as resulting from the interaction of an individual’s experience with the complex neural network in the brain (Westmern et.al, 2007). The perspective of this theory offers an integrated approach to the cognitive development of people. The theory stands out from the traditional approaches on cognitive development by providing the constraints that affect the development of the organism. It explains the mechanisms that unfold over time that ultimately yield in human development (Shultz & Mareschal, 1997).
The theory provides the constraints whose interplay constitutes the overall cognitive development. Comprehension of the different constraints in the framework and their participation in neural development is the pivotal focus in understanding cognitive development. All the constraints in all levels from the gene to the environment must be taken into account in order for different views of the brain and environment to be integrated. For instance, neural constructivism focuses on experience and small scale neural structures (Quartz et al, 1997), interactive specialization that deals with interaction between the brain and the functional brain development (Johnson, 2000); probabilistic epigenesist deals with interaction between gene expression and experience (Gottlieb, 1992). There is also the embodiment, which emphasizes the role of the body in cognitive development (Clark, 1999), approaches focusing on the environments role in the process of child’s development. Constructivist ideas on the development of the child which majorly focuses on the participation of the individual during the process of gaining knowledge (Piaget, 1955).
Its approach is scientific involving the most modern information. It takes a multidisciplinary dimension, uses the cognitive, neuroimaging and computational models to explain the process of human development from birth to adulthood. The terms such as embodiment and embrainment are used to explicitly explain the idea. The theory uses a concept referred to us “context dependence” to refer to the interdependence of different things. For example, even a brain cell does not develop in isolation. They develop within a brain. The brain develops within a body while the body develops within an environment. In every point of development, each of the developing things is affected by something else. Everything from the brain cell is affected by another neighboring one which is also developing(Westermann et.al,2007).
The Neuroconstructivist theory has significantly built on Jean Piaget’s theory on cognitive development. The theory holds the view that complex mental processes develop in an individual in a progressive manner. Furthermore, the development is highly influenced by the individual's environment. In addition to Piaget’s ideas, the Neuroconstructivist theory is additionally informed by the current information on brain development. It provides developmental trajectory, something that other developmental theories do not provide. For instance, Piaget argues out those children at the age of 7 to Around 10 years lack conservation concept. They rarely understand that the physical characteristics of a substance don’t change even if the physical appearance changes (Piaget, 1955). The existing theories for instance, Piaget’s and Vygotsy’s have clear limitations that hinder them from being referred to us current theories. (Newcombe, 2011).
The theory has achieved a closer association between the behavior and the environment that the developing individual lives in. The brain, which is central to most of the human activities has been embedded in the environment in the course of the explanation and has not been divorced from it. The brain plays a very critical role in coordinating the outer and the inner worlds (Ballarde et.al, 1997). Therefore, the emphasis that the constructivist theory gives in the cognitive development is vital especially with regards to its emphasis on the complex as well as modernized explanations on the mechanisms.
It also provides learners with changes in the development process that allow the growing child to progress from one stage to another; from one skill to another which is more complex than the latter. Neuroconstructivist theory provides such a comprehensive framework. It explains development as composed of both biological and environmental factors. It goes an extra mile to explain how the interaction of the biological and the environmental factors influence the development of neurons in the brain. The neuron network in turn is the one that is responsible for progression in the complexity of the brain to handle issues pertaining mental representations (Jesell et al, 2000). The Neuroconstructivist view holds that the brain and cognitive development are closely linked. The theory highly rejects the proposal of Marr that holds the view that cognitive development takes place in separated levels (Marr, 1982).
The theory explains more than contending that development is majorly due to neural adaptations. It argues for consistency between the different levels. More so, there should also be an acknowledgement that a change in one level is going to affect other levels in one way or another. Neuroconstructivist theory is therefore a theoretical framework basically propounded in order to give an in depth scope in the study of cognitive development. Although it seems to settle much on the functioning of neurons in the brain, it offers a wide and deep explanation on cognitive development especially in a developing child (Westermann et.al, 2007).
Explaining the mechanisms involved in cognitive development has been a hard task especially to the psychologists. This theory has really attempted to give a wide scope of explanation that is in line with the available information in the modern era. This is partly what makes it a modern developmental psychology theory. Most of the developmental theories usually explain the activities that the children engage in at a specific stage. This normally leaves out the important information that development is supposed to contain. Neuroconstructivist theories offer further elaboration of the trajectory changes that take place in the process of development. These among others are some of the strengths of Neuroconstructivist theory that make it have an upper hand over the existing theories (Westermann et.al, 2007).
The other main advantage that makes the theory have a current phase is its complimentary role. It has not discarded the concepts of the previous theories but it has attempted to explain the theories in details. The theory presents coherent examples in its explanation. For example, development of the child is attributed to emanate from two major factors; i.e. the nature and the nurture factors. The product of both the genetic and the environmental factors are the one that enhances proper human development (Meany, 2001). The theory goes an extra mile to provide a wealth of descriptive materials in explaining the process involved in the development of human beings.
On the other hand the theory seems to have failed to provide a wider explanation or an in depth analysis of the environmental factors that affect human development. This leaves a room for criticism since the explanation of the theory diverts so much on the biological mechanisms of the human body such as the neurons in the brain. Physical factors have been adequately ignored in the explanation.
The theory has also limitations that limit its approach as a developmental psychology theory. For example, the theory overemphasizes its explanation on the neural activities with the assistance of computational models. (Innocenti, 2008). This reductionism nature of the theory can be misleading. This is because neural development in the cerebral cortex often depends on neural activity which is highly dependent on the experience in the environment. Neural networks themselves are shaped by cognitive processing. The basis of cognitive development from this perspective can be seen as mutually induced changes between the cognitive and neural levels (Quartz et. al, 1997).
Further research has been done on the theory. As one continues to develop complex representations in the brain, an orderly development process can be achieved through physical restrictions with the perceived increase in the complexity of the environment (Turkewitz & Kenny, 1982). The developing body acts as a filter to information as well as a manipulation to the environment to produce new sensory experiences and other inputs in general. For instance, if a child wants to see light being illuminated in his/her hands, he/she will move the hands until spots of light are seen in his/her hands. This means that the hands are physically manipulated to input sensory experiences. Such intervening factors have not been put into place in the theory and are highly significant. More sensory inputs are achieved as the child grows up because there is increased coordination between the mobility and sensorimotor (Hull, 1935).
The theory argues from a nativist point of view, which holds that cognitive development starts from early stages of life. It also perceives abilities to be innate. The contention here is the right time of the innateness of the ability. This lack of time-specific activities might make the theory prone to criticisms. It might seem to be like a psychological creation when the definition of time is not made. Since the theory does not offer time-specific activities, it is very hard for general predictions to be made.
In a nutshell, the Neuroconstructivist theory can be perceived as a holistically described theory which explains the composition of the individual. It can be used to explain the individual’s talents, character, weaknesses and many others. Every single detail of the development has been explored to explain their choice, actions and general behavior.