Cognitive Development Essay: Finding Nemo


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Cognitive Development Essay: Finding Nemo


Cognitive development is drastically significant in terms of a child’s progressive learning, complex thinking, social adaptation, and environment (Galotti, 2017). However, many individuals have been affected by new technological trends in latest decades. That is, children and adolescents used to go out and socialize with their peers. Nevertheless, now, we live in a technological age when everyone, every child and adolescent, is busy with smartphones, tablets, and computers. Therefore, it is now time to have concerns about the proper cognitive development of children and adolescents as the natural cycle has already been broken because of the internet and technology. In this assignment, I have applied my knowledge of cognitive development on Finding Nemo (2003). Accordingly, one can readily observe cognitive development theories such as Piaget’s accommodation and Vygotsky’s theories.

Cognitive Development

As it already suggests with its literal meaning, cognitive development refers to the advance of decision-making, thought, and construction processes of children during the transition from childhood to adolescence ("Cognitive Development,” 2019, para. 1). That is, one can explain the cognitive development as the intellectuality, intelligence, complex thinking, and attention of children. Contrary to the prior concepts, it is now believed that "infants lacked the ability to think or form complex ideas and remained without cognition until they learned a language" ("Cognitive Development,” 2019, para. 4). Nevertheless, recent studies have proved otherwise. More specifically, it is now widely considered that babies start learning new things without merely learning a language by observing and perception (“Cognitive Development,” 2019, para. 9). In this sense, one can argue that the cognitive development of children and babies starts long before they learn a language. Cognitive development is a complex process that is affected by multiple factors such as the environment, age, gender, social surroundings, health, and even genetics.

A Brief History of Cognitive Development

Throughout centuries, there have existed many studies and concerns on the cognitive development of children in literature. Historically, a variety of ways have been used to determine cognitive development, including the "Stanford Binet Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test by Lewis Terman (1877—1956) (“Cognitive Development,” 2019, History). Especially, such tests were widely implemented in the United States in that age (Cherry, 2020). Nevertheless, the method drew much criticism from scientific areas because it was too narrow to define a complex cognitive learning process. Therefore, new researches such as John Watson (1878—1958) and B.F. Skinner (1904—1990) have come to the forefront "because they argued that children are malleable" ("Cognitive Development," 2019, Description). Since then, researchers have considered the importance of environmental and other external factors when studying children's cognitive development.

Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

On the other hand, Piaget’s theory “is the most well-known and influential theory of cognitive development” (“Cognitive Development,” 2019, Piaget’s Theory). The theory was presented in 1952 by Jean Piaget (1896—1980), a French psychologist (Galotti, 2017). After years of behavioral, environmental, natural, and comprehensible observation of children, the psychologist has developed the most influential theory in cognitive development for children (Cherry, 2020; Galotti, 2017). According to the psychologist, assimilation term "is the process of taking in new information by relating," while accommodation term stands for literally “accomodating new knowledge, experience, and information” (Cherry, 2020, Piaget). Both terms were first presented by Jean Piaget and shaped the theory. However, four essential stages are at the core of the psychologist’s theory.

  • Sensorimotor—(infancy)
    This stage is highly based on experiences and physical interactions because the kid cannot speak a language anyway. However, children may use symbolic languages in an attempt to express their feelings.

  • Pre-operational—(early childhood and toddlerhood)
    At this stage, language develops, and children start using symbols, non-logical thinking, or even egocentric thinking.

  • Concrete-operational—(elementary and early)
    Children now express logical and numerical thinking patterns, and they also have operational thinking. The level of egocentric thinking decreases.

  • Formal-operational—(adolescence and adulthood)
    At this stage, logical use of symbols, return to egocentric thought happen (“Cognitive Development,” 2019). However, not every individual completes this stage. That is, merely 35% of high school graduates in developed countries are known to have formal operations or skills (“Cognitive Development,” 2019).

The Movie: Finding Nemo

A short synopsis of the movie includes the fact that only Nemo survived the accident, also Nemo was captured and forced to in a fish tank in Sydney (Finding Nemo, 2003). However, Nemo did not listen to the father's advice, who is depicted as overprotective. The storyline continues with Marlin, who struggles to find Nemo in a challenging journey (Finding Nemo, 2003). Furthermore, Nemo also looks for ways to escape the fish tank. After all, they are united and happy and back to where they belong.

Accordingly, Nemo showed a lot of Piaget's theories. That is, Nemo was able to use the previous schemes he had learned back to the reef, and when Nemo was in the fish tank, he managed to improvise and make us of previous experiences and knowledge. This developmental trait of Nemo can be attributed to the accommodation theory of Piaget. More specifically, Nemo was able to improvise and accommodate the crisis by swimming deep in the ocean when they were thrown into the ship (Finding Nemo, 2003, The Swim Together Scene).

On the other hand, one can observe the cognitive development theory of Vygotsky. Accordingly, this approach requires learning through social interactions, scaffolding, acting as a mentor, and after all, less assistance is needed once an individual becomes more capable (Galotti, 2017, Chapter 8). In the movie, one can see that Gill tends to act as a mentor of Nemo. When Nemo had to block the filter, Nemo was instructed by Gill for the process. When Nemo first tried and failed, and assistance was needed, Gill's assistance again (Finding Nemo, 2003, Nemo Clogs the Filter Scene). However, at a later scene, it is explicit that Nemo can now complete the process without external help.


This assignment has presented insights into cognitive development, its historical approaches, and the current agenda. Accordingly, one can observe the differences between the narrow ancient methods and Piaget's more complicated theory. Also, Finding Nemo has been analyzed. The paper also includes a short synopsis of the movie. As a result, one can readily observe cognitive development theories such as Piaget’s accommodation and Vygotsky's theories.


Cherry, K. (2020, March 31). What Are Piaget's Four Stages of Development? Retrieved April 23, 2020, from

Cognitive Development. (2019). Retrieved April 23, 2020, from

Finding Nemo. (2003, May 30). Retrieved April 23, 2020, from

Galotti, K. M. (2017). Cognitive development: infancy through adolescence. Los Angeles; London: SAGE.

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Zendaya Kane
Zendaya Kane
Content Lead at Tamara Research. Major in Advertising, loves working.

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