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Early Cognitive Development: Learning Experience

The term knowledge is defined as the process through which people acquire knowledge and behavior. Skills, values, and characteristics that people exhibit are acquired through learning. The process of learning takes place slowly by slowly even though some experiences can be learned instantly. Education is one of the ways through which individuals acquire knowledge. Children are taught many thing s in school. For instance, they are taught how to play, pray, and interact with other people. During the stages of development as children grow through the stages of adolescent to adulthood, they lean many things, which contribute to their understanding. Children also learn through observation. Young children observe the behaviour of their parents after which they cope from them (Clarke, 2003).

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Informal learning involves the acquisition of knowledge outside learning institutions like schools. To acquire this knowledge, special training is not required.This kind of knowledge is acquired through socialization and it can be acquired at home, working places as well as through interaction s with friends. Young people mostly learn through informal ways because of peer pressure. This is because they influence each other’s behavior. The way in which an individual is brought up and the environment in which the same person is brought up determines the behaviour of that person. Children whose parents are Christians are likely to follow the behaviour of their parents. The Christian doctrine teaches its followers the virtues of being obedient, polite, and generous and other virtues.

Children brought up by Christian parents will be taught those virtues thus they will portray the same behaviour (Clarke, 2003). These children will also be trained to attend Sunday services as well as attending church gathering, which will help them to grow morally upright. These children adopt this behaviour so that it becomes part of their life. The same thing is true with a child who is brought up in a family of thieves or where one of the family members is a thief. The child will not see the disadvantage of being a thief because somebody does it. Such children become robbers in future through learning. Behavior characteristics can therefore be learnt through the process of interaction.

Prayer is one of the experiences that one gains informally. In order to be able to pray, one does not need to be taken to school or trained. People gain the knowledge of how to pray through interaction. In churches for instance, prayers are very important. Prayer acts as a mediator between God and people with people taking their needs to God (Clarke, 2003). Through prayers, the Holy Spirit also reaches the people. People are healed through prayers and other miracles happen through prayers. This makes prayers very important to Christians. Non-Christians also recognize prayers as very important. If somebody wants to be good in praying, he/she attends gatherings where people pray. He or she starts praying initially by saying just a few words. After a period, the same person will be in a position to pray for an hour.

There are several ways to explain the process of acquiring experiences. They include classical conditioning, operant conditioning and the social learning theory. Ivan Pavlov propagated classical conditioning theory. The role played by saliva in the process of digestion was the major focus of his experiment. He did his experiment using Dogs where the wanted to investigate the response of the dogs. Once the dogs saw the person who used to give them food, heard the smell of the food or food was brought to them they started salivating. In another experiment, a bell would be rung just before the dogs could be given food. After some time, the dogs got used to it and they would begin salivating after hearing the sound of the bell. The dogs began associating the sound of the bell with food. Salivation is an involuntary reflex, which comes before food the appropriate stimulus. This experience is not biological but has been acquired through learning (Mitterer & Coon, 2008).

The experience of praying can be acquired through classical conditioning. For instance, some people will pray whenever food is presented in the table before eating. Such people get used to the idea so that they cannot eat before praying for the food. This will become a habit so that they relate prayers with food because it is after praying that they eat. Prayer therefore becomes automatic for such people before taking food. The experience can also be acquired through observation. For instance, if one admires somebody who knows how to pray, he / she relates prayers to that person so that whenever he sees that person what he remembers is to pray. Through this method, the person gets the experience. In first case, the response is praying while the unconditioned stimulus is food. In the other case, praying is the response while seeing the person is the stimulus (Mitterer & Coon, 2008).

Operant conditioning is another theory that explains acquisition of experiences. According to this theory, learning is determined by the punishments or rewards which an individual gets for certain behaviour. The theory focuses on the relationship between the behaviour and the outcomes of the behaviour. The theory asserts that increase or decrease in the occurrence of a particular behaviour depends on the positive and the negative effects of the action.

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If somebody is rewarded for a particular behaviour, that person is likely to continue with it. In the same way if the result of the behaviour is punishment, then the behaviour is likely to be stopped. Praying experience can also be acquired through operant conditioning (Blackman, 1974). As a way of communicating and asking for what we need from the heavenly father, the rate at which one prays increases when the needs are full filled. Through prayers, miracles take place and this encourages people to continue praying. People get discouraged if there turns to be no responses to prayers or getting negative responses. Praying is reinforced because through prayers, people get relieved from their problems.

Cognitive social learning theory is based on the assumption that peoples learn through observing the behaviour portrayed by other people.In addition to this, social cognist theorists argue that individuals thoughts are important in determining the behaviour in addition to the environment where one lives. The three theories are similar in the sense that there is a stimulus. Operant conditioning is different because the results of the behaviour of an individual either strengthens or stops the behavior. When the behaviour is strengthened, it is likely to be repeated again.

Punishment stops the behaviour thus it weakens the response (Oates, 1979). This is a different to classical conditioning where the dogs eat regardless of whether they salivate or not. In classical conditioning, the response o the organism is involuntary and passive unlike in operant where the response is active and voluntary. The consequences of the action in operant determine whether the action will be repeated or not. A reward given for a certain action motivates the person to continue with the same but punishment makes it end. Social cognitive combines both the environment and individuals thoughts as the main determinants of a person’s behaviour unlike the other theories.

Praying experience is important because it acts as a mediator between God and people. A person communicates to their God Through prayers. People present their needs to their religious leaders who help them to pray. Praying can be learned gradually through interaction with people who know how to pray. It is an experience, which is learned slowly by slowly, and one does not need to attend classes to be able to learn how to pray (Oates, 1979).


Blackman, E. (1974). Operant Conditioning: An Experimental Analysis of Behavior. New York, NY: Routledge.

Clarke, D. (2003). Pro-social and Anti-Social Behavior. New York, NY: Routledge.

Coon, D. & Mitterer O. (2008). Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior. London: Cengage Learning.

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Oates, J. (1979). Early Cognitive Development: a Reader. Washington: Taylor & Francis.

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