Those Darn Kids

Centration is the tendency to focus on one salient aspect of a situation and neglect other, possibly relevant aspects. Introduced by the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget through his cognitive-developmental stage theory, centration is a behavior often demonstrated in the earliest stages of development. 

Piaget claimed that egocentrism, a common element responsible for preoperational children’s unsystematic thinking, was the cause of centration. Piaget believed that in each period of development, a deficit in cognitive thinking could be attributed to the concept of egocentrism.

In adults today, centration is the rule rather than the exception. Centration manifests as a result of the externalized focus of adult awareness and the powerfully conforming influence of our culture, resulting in the lack of internal directedness and self-confidence.

Egocentrism, refers to the inability to distinguish one’s own perspective from that of others, but does not necessarily imply a willful selfishness or conceit, but rather manifests as a weakened sense of self-confidence and personal identity in an adult. This leads conformed adults to more heavily rely upon their adapted role, or persona, resulting in egocentrism

Children are egocentric when they consider matters only from their own perspective. For example, a young egocentric boy might want to buy his mother a toy car for her birthday. This would not be a selfish act, as he would be getting her a present, but it would be an action that did not take into account the fact that the mother might not like the car. The child would assume that his mother would be thinking the same thing as himself, and would therefore love to receive a toy car as a gift.

An adult displays this type of Centrated egocentrism in more sophisticated and less obvious ways. For example, a Centrated Adult may require others to submit to their way a viewing the world, citing all manner of reasons why they need others to defer to their inflexible ways of thinking and irrational demands. These adults only see the world through their own lens, and lack healthy levels of empathy. Most Conformed adults are sophisticated enough to know that an obvious display of egocentrism will lessen their ability to maintain communications with others, and therefore must subtly control others through their successful adapted pretenses.

This pretentious Centrated adaptation fosters group segregation based upon cognitive development even more so than disparate socioeconomic level disparities. Ones level of reasoning and belief justification is a direct result of ones cognitive development, and those with similar beliefs and worldviews tend to congregate into corresponding social groups.

Animism – the attribution of life to physical objects – also stems from egocentrism; children assumed that everything functions just as they do. In adults, magical thinking, belief in poorly reasoned supernatural entities, and religious fundamentalism correlate with the Animism of children.

As long as children are egocentric, they fail to realize the extent to which each person has private, subjective experiences. Adults similarly, assume others think as they do, and have difficulty imaging that others can believe or reason differently than they do.

In terms of moral reasoning, young children and Centrated adults, regard rules from one perspective, as absolutes handed down from adults or authority figures. Children and Centrated adults, require a high level of certainty and security to maintain their emotional stability, and would rather not know contradictory or discordant information, lest they become upset.

Just as the egocentric child views things from a single perspective, the child who fails to conserves focuses on only one aspect of the problem. For example, when water is poured from one glass into a shorter, broader one, the child ‘centers’ on a single striking dimension – the difference in height. The child cannot ‘decenter’ and consider two aspects of the situation at once. Centration, essentially, can be seen as a form of egocentrism in specific tasks involving scientific reasoning.

Similarly, this technique is commonly employed in marketing when displaying varying sizes of containers of a given substance. With a large base of Centrated adults to draw from, marketers employ simple subliminal unconscious conditional cues and parlor tricks to sell to poorly reasoning adults.    

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