The two theories I am comparing and contrasting is the theory of behaviorism and the sociocultural theory on cognitive development. The theory of behaviorism is made up of conditioning. According to Berk, behavior is dependent on the environment and it can be molded and shaped in the presence or absence of reinforcement and punishment. In the social cultural theory, behavior is dependent on the culture, customs, and traditions surrounding an individual (2014).

Similar strengths on cognitive development these theories share is that they both consider one’s environment as an important influence on learning. Both theories also place emphasis on adults influence on a child’s cognitive development. For example, with behaviorism, a parent can increase the wanted behavior with verbal praise or an edible reinforcement. In the social cultural perspective, parents or teachers exchanging knowledge to children influences their cognitive development. Both theories also believe cognitive development to occur throughout life. Similarly, both theories share a limited emphasis on an individual’s ability to shape their own cognitive development and achievement (Berk, 2014). According to McKee and Barber, (as cited by Aldwin, 2014), individuals cannot make their own conscious decisions if they are not aware of what effects them.

The social cultural theory is different from behaviorism because it includes culture and group interaction as an impact on development. Vygotsky introduced scaffolding, (as cited by Laureate Education, 2010), or assessing what an individual knows and building on that. The school system is a good example of scaffolding which has a great impact on cognitive development from childhood to adulthood. Teachers asses what you know and build on that each year. In contrast, behaviorism focuses on molding single specific behaviors.

Another difference is in their limitations. Behaviorism lacks explanation for other environmental influences different from punishment and reinforcement that might influence development. While the cultural theory might have more explanations, these explanations might include biases from researchers and the findings of one culture may not be consistent with findings in another culture (Berk, 2014).


Aldwin, C. M. (2014). Rethinking developmental science. Research in Human Development, 11(4), 247–254.
Berk, L. E. (2014). Development through the lifespan (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education

Laureate Education. (Producer). (2010a). Cognitive development theories [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

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