What are secondary circular reactions?

In this blog we will discuss what secondary circular reactions are. 

We will also briefly discuss what sensorimotor stage of cognitive development is and also Piaget’s Theory of cognitive development .

What are secondary circular reactions?

The Secondary Circular reaction refers to one of the sub-stages of the first stage of cognitive development according to Piagetian theory where a child, typically between 4-8 months, begins to engage in repetitive actions in order to trigger a desired response. 

This particular behaviour within the second sub-stage occurs during the Sensorimotor stage of cognitive development according to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. 

According to the American Psychological Association, secondary circular reactions refers to 

“…a repetitive action emerging around 4 to 8 months of age that signifies the infant’s aim of making things happen.”

The definition provided also highlights that the infant repeats actions and behaviours at this stage. These Behaviours are typically behaviours and actions that have yielded results in the past. 

However the child at this stage is not able to coordinate behaviour so as to meet the requirements of a new situation however, coordination occurs during the end of the first year of the child’s life. 

During this particular substrate, the child is focused on the world around them and begins to intentionally repeat pleasurable actions that involve other objects as well as their body bodies.

Some of the secondary circular reaction behaviours include: the infant who shakes the rattle for the pleasure of hearing the sound that it produces.

What is the Sensorimotor Stage of Cognitive Development?

The secondary circular reaction occurs during the first stage of cognitive development according to Jean Piaget which is the sensorimotor stage.

This particular stage starts from birth till the end of the second year of the child;s life and is a period of rapid cognitive growth. 

It is during this stage that the infants begin to develop an understanding of the world around them by coordinating sensory experiences with motor activities, however coordination during the end of their first year. 

During the initial phase of this stage, the child uses skills and abilities that they are born with like sucking, looking, grasping, and listening to understand the world around them. 

Because they use their senses including motor movements to learn about their environments and expect the world around them, this stage is considered the sensorimotor stage. 

It is often that the child learns through trial-and-error at this stage and gains awareness and understanding of themselves and the world around them/

During this particular stage, the main development is that of the understanding of Object permanence which refers to the understanding that objects in the world continue to exist and events can happen independently without one’s own actions. 

For example, the understanding that a toy can exist even if one does not see it. 

It is this attainment of object permanence that signals the development of the child’s cognitive abilities on to the next stage.

What are the other sub-stages of the Sensorimotor Stage of Cognitive Development?

The sub stages of the Sensorimotor stage of Cognitive development are divided into six sub-stages that span across the first two years of a child’s life. 

Each substage is characterised by the development of a new skill and includes the following:

Reflexes (0-1 month)

This is the first substage where the child understands and is aware of the world through reflexes only.

These reflexes are tied to their sensory systems and include reflections like sucking, looking, turning towards sound and light. 

At this stage the child does not engage his motor skills as intentionally as the other stages; rather these motor movements are all part of their reflexes.

Primary Circular Reactions (1-4 months)

The next substage involves coordinating sensations that they have come across accidentally and creating new schemas with it. 

For example, the child might have suckled on their thumb by accident and found it pleasurable, so later on they repeat the behaviour intentionally and purposely because they found it pleasurable. 

So, at this stage the first few schemas about their bodies and the world are made by accidental experiences and repetitions of pleasurable behaviours. 

Secondary Circular Reactions (4-8 months)

The Secondary Circular reaction refers to one of the sub-stages of the first stage of cognitive development according to Piagetian theory where a child, typically between 4-8 months, begins to engage in repetitive actions in order to trigger a desired response. 

Here the infant repeats actions and behaviours at this stage. These Behaviours are typically behaviours and actions that have yielded results in the past. 

However the child at this stage is not able to coordinate behaviour so as to meet the requirements of a new situation however, coordination occurs during the end of the first year of the child’s life. 

Coordination of Reactions (8-12 months)

The fourth substage involves clear intentional actions and behaviours. They might also begin to coordinate multiple reactions together and combine schemas to achieve their desired results. 

The child begins to explore the world around them and also imitate behaviours of others at this stage. At this stage they also notice that certain objects have certain and specific qualities. 

For example, at this stage they will learn that rattle toys make a sound when shaken so they will shake it for the sound intentionally. . 

Tertiary Circular Reactions (12-18 months)

The fifth stage is where the child begins to actively explore the world with a series of trial and error experiments. 

They might begin to experiment with different objects for desired behaviours and they might also make different reactions and sounds to gain the attention of their caregivers. 

Early Representational Thought (18-24 months)

Towards the end of the second year of the child’s development, the child begins to develop symbols to represent events or objects in the world.

They also begin to move towards understanding the world through mental operations rather than only actions and reactions. They also develop what is known as the most important accomplishments at the sensorimotor stage of development- object permanence.

Object permanence is a child’s understanding that objects continue to exist even though they cannot be seen or heard and that events can happen independently without one’s own actions. 

For example, the understanding that a toy can exist even if one does not see it. 

It is this attainment of object permanence that signals the development of the child’s cognitive abilities on to the next stage.

What are Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development?

Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is one of the first theories that explains cognitive growth and pushes forward the idea that intelligence changes as children grow. 

The theory is based on the assumption that the cognitive development of a human child is not only by acquiring knowledge but by the process of developing and constructing mental understanding of the world around them.

Piaget developed this theory based on his observation of children’s cognitive processes as they responded to French versions of questions on English intelligence tests.

He noticed that children would often give wrong answers to questions that required logical thinking- something that adults would have no problem with- so he became very interested in this difference. 

So based on his observations, Piaget proposed a set of assumptions about children’s intelligence that became the base of his theory. They are:

  • Children’s intelligence is different from the intelligence of an adult in terms of quality rather than quantity. He also added that children tend to think and reason very differently from adults and see the world in different ways compared to adults. 
  • He also proposed that children are constantly and actively building up their knowledge base of the world. Their learning is not passive rather it is active and it is through trial and error engagements that they begin to learn about themselves in the world.
  • He also stressed that the best way to understand children’s reasoning was to see things from their point of view.

In this process of developing his theory he began to study children from infancy to adolescence using observation of his own three children and began to chart their cognitive developments. 

According to Jean Piaget, the Cognitive development of a person occurs through the interaction of innate behaviours and capabilities and the world around them including environmental events such as the reaction of a caregiver or the resulting sound of a toy. 

Piaget’s theory of cognitive development proposes 4 stages of development.

  • Sensorimotor stage: birth to 2 years
  • Preoperational stage: 2 to 7 years
  • Concrete operational stage: 7 to 11 years
  • Formal operational stage: ages 12 and up

Each stage is further divided into substages with various mental accomplishments they must achieve as they develop cognitively. 

The sequence of the stages is universal across cultures and follows the same order however, though all children go through the same stages in the same order they need not progress at the same rate.

Conclusion

In this blog we discussed what secondary circular reactions are. 

We also briefly discussed what sensorimotor stage of cognitive development is and also Piaget’s Theory of cognitive development .

FAQ related to secondary circular reaction

What are primary and secondary circular reactions?

Primary Circular Reactions involves coordinating sensations that they have come across accidentally and creating new schemas with it. 

For example, the child might have suckled on their thumb by accident and found it pleasurable, so later on they repeat the behaviour intentionally and purposely because they found it pleasurable. 

The Secondary Circular reaction refers to one of the sub-stages of the first stage of cognitive development according to Piagetian theory where a child, typically between 4-8 months, begins to engage in repetitive actions in order to trigger a desired response. 

Here the infant repeats actions and behaviours at this stage. These Behaviours are typically behaviours and actions that have yielded results in the past. 

Which is an example of a secondary circular reaction?

Example secondary circular reaction behaviours include: the infant who shakes the rattle for the pleasure of hearing the sound that it produces.

Why are circular reactions called circular?

 Circular reactions called circular are called so because it refers to repetitive behaviours. 

What stage is tertiary circular reactions?

tertiary circular reactions refers to the fifth substage of the first stage of cognitive development. Here the child begins to actively explore the world with a series of trial and error experiments. 

They might begin to experiment with different objects for desired behaviours and they might also make different reactions and sounds to gain the attention of their caregivers. 

References

McLeod, S. A. (2019, April 09). Sensorimotor stage. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/sensorimotor.html

Cherry.K. The Sensorimotor Stage of Cognitive Development. Verywellmind. Retrieved on 16th March 2022. https://www.verywellmind.com/sensorimotor-stage-of-cognitive-development-2795462#toc-substages

Secondary Circular Reactions. APA Dictionary of Psychology.Retrieved on 16th March 2022. https://dictionary.apa.org/secondary-circular-reaction\

McLeod, S. A. (2018, June 06). Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html

Cherry.K. The 4 Stages of Cognitive Development. Verywellmind. https://www.verywellmind.com/piagets-stages-of-cognitive-development-2795457

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