If you’re trying to figure out why infants construct schemas, then read till the end of this guide because I’m going to be quick on this one, telling you precisely all you need to know. No BS!
Infants come into the world relatively young, clueless, and helpless. For this reason, schemas become the tool they use to navigate and make sense of the world.
It’s how they communicate and relate with their environment since the adult world is too complex for their minds.
The importance of schema in infants goes beyond making sense of the world but before we go any further, let’s take a quick swerve to get a basic insight into what schemas are.
What Are Schemas?
Schemas are the customary framework of practices people use to interact and interpret the world. In other words, it’s how people relate to the world, including infants.
As humans, we’re constantly taking in information from all our senses for the brain to interpret.
Sometimes we get so bombarded with all kinds of information that our brains cannot handle everything at once – some information will be left out as a result.
The situation is even worse for infants considering their underdeveloped brains.
However, unlike our primitive ancestors, our brains have evolved over billions of years, passing through a series of configurations and reconfigurations in each generation.
Until this point, the brain has successfully adapted to the reality of this information bombardment; not just that, it has also found a way to handle it.
The formula developed by the brain to handle information is what we call a schema. It simply describes the attributes, measures, and hierarchies you can use when applying analysis to a real-world situation.
In simpler words, a schema is your data model – how you structure information in your brain as you go through life experiences and events.
The idea of an infant constructing schemas is based on Piaget’s theory of cognitive development.
He believed that children develop through stages, from birth until adulthood, one stage being the sensorimotor stage (which includes infancy).
He proposed that infants construct schemas as they explore their environment by using all five senses (touching it with their hands or mouth) or observing others interacting with different objects or people to learn about them and gain knowledge on what they do when interacting with these resources.
The construction of schemas is how thinking patterns are set.
It’s how languages are learned and developed for effective communication.
Most importantly, it’s the foundational block for problem-solving skills.
Schemas have a wide range of applications.
Even history will prove schemas played a major role in the world’s greatest discoveries and inventions, even in formulating recognized hypotheses and theories.
Lastly, the reality of schema is a product of our evolution as humans. It’s how we’ve survived throughout history.
And so far, it’s being applied by every level of humanity, but while I’m not here to go over all of that, I simply want to focus on why infants have been able to construct and apply the use of schemas.
How and Why Do Infants Construct Schemas?
The greatest challenge for an infant is communication. They must always communicate their intentions – when they’re hungry, need to sleep, and feel too hot or too cold.
Sometimes, they want to communicate other intentions, but their underdeveloped language can’t help them.
So they’ll naturally push themselves up their communication game to break through such limitations, not negating the significant role TIME has to play in such development.
No one likes to live in uncertainty, not even infants. The world is too uncertain for infants, and as usual, they’ll strive to understand the world and how to communicate better.
What better way to do this than to study the world? That’s it. They’ll begin to study patterns by observing behavioral movements and all that.
To study patterns and other behavioral actions, they need a process, a SCHEMA that allows them to do it effectively without going off course.
And that brings us to the big question of HOW and WHY infants construct schemas.
For the next few paragraphs, I highlighted infants’ sequence in developing their schematic nature.
First, they mentally represent actions they engage in. Second, they imitate the actions of others over and over again.
Third, they take the imitation further by pretending and role modeling. Fourth, they engage in patterning activities and find internal patterns within objects or events to figure things out.
Fifth, they use introspection and self-talk to keep themselves focused on the task at hand (i.e., “I am doing this….”), and sixth, they engage in trial-and-error explorations, repeatedly testing out a hypothesis until it makes sense to them either visually or physically.
Seventh and eighth are possible factors that involve connecting with mental imagery and prior experiences to personalize their schemas into unique patterns for solving problems effectively.
Taking it further, infants develop schemas through processes of assimilation and accommodation.
Assimilation occurs when an infant incorporates new information into an already existing schema.
Accommodation occurs when the baby needs to change its existing schema to deal with a new situation.
Infants derive meaning from sensory input simply by looking at an object. Along with vision, infants use their senses of smell, taste, hearing, and touch to construct schemas.
Infants can use perceptual cues to gather information about their immediate environment and other surrounding objects.
They also process information about both physical and social characteristics. Through imitation, infants learn new actions and behaviors to help them relate to the world.
And finally, they’ll interact with other infants and adults to learn from them.
At this point, they become more capable of categorizing things while they grow up.
Fundamentally speaking, infants construct schema because they’re trying to get their needs met.
Not necessary, but such is also one of the pieces of evidence of their inherent selfishness – yeah, babies are selfish by nature, but that’s by the way.
Experiences – both positive and negative, are constantly shaping the infant’s brain.
Which explains why it’s important for infants to have a good amount of exposure to selected experiences.
But infants have a short attention span, so they can’t always remember their experiences.
To get past this block, they naturally have to construct schemas to enable them to recognize situations, understand how to interpret the world, and relate to both people and objects.
Infants also construct schemas because it serves as a blueprint for later behaviors in life.
And development depends on the organization of the said behaviors.
The construction of schemas provides the mental framework for infants to organize information.
It’s how they learn.
It’s how they develop their language and thinking patterns.
Schemas also guide how infants will remember and recognize events and situations.
The concept of active learning is a tool every human should develop.
And schemas are one of the ways through which active learning is developed in infants.
Most importantly, the construction of schemas allows infants to build their knowledge, setting them apart and fulfilling nature’s plan by manifesting their uniqueness as individuals.
The schema represents the most abstract level at which infants organize their experiences.
Just a recap, infants construct schemas to better understand and interact with their environment.
To do this, they use their five senses to observe and interact with the world around them.
Infants constantly explore their environment and interact with objects, people, and animals to learn about them.
They learn through experience that an object can be used for a specific purpose, such as eating from a plate.
When infants construct schemas, they can use this information to understand better how things work in the world around them, which allows them to predict what will happen next based on their previous observations of how things work (such as how a plate falls off the table if it is not held).
So, whenever you see your child playing with objects or maybe just staring intently at you or someone else, just understand that the construction of schemas might be playing out.
What you should do is leave them alone. However, this doesn’t count when they are doing something potentially harmful.