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Piaget Theory of Cognitive Development

Growing can be hard to do. Piaget understood that a child has a long journey in cognitive development and that there are necessary stages to progress through. Piaget's theory of cognitive development shows how we learn and assimilate the bounds of information we process through our earliest years. First, we will discuss Piaget's stages of cognitive development theory. Next, we will understand…

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Piaget Theory of Cognitive Development

Piaget Theory of Cognitive Development

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Growing can be hard to do. Piaget understood that a child has a long journey in cognitive development and that there are necessary stages to progress through. Piaget's theory of cognitive development shows how we learn and assimilate the bounds of information we process through our earliest years.

  • First, we will discuss Piaget's stages of cognitive development theory.
  • Next, we will understand the applications of Piaget's stages of cognitive development theory.
  • After, we will evaluate the theories proposed by Piaget.
  • Lastly, we will understand the importance of Piaget's stages of cognitive development theory.

Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development Theory

Piaget noted through his studies that there are stages that are pivotal to the development of cognition. What are the stages of cognitive development according to Piaget? -- sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and the formal operational stage.

Stages of cognitive development

Age (years)

Target goal

Sensor motor

0–2

Object permanence

Preoperational

2–7

Symbolic thought

Concrete operational

7–11

Logical thought

Formally operational

11

Scientific thought

According to Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, a child who misses a stage is in danger of improper development. However, due to individual differences, children may reach one stage to another at a different pace.

The Sensorimotor Stage (0–2)

In the earliest years, up to age two, a child’s mind is preoccupied with learning about the world around them. Loads of noises and sights are like adding pieces to a puzzle to a new and forming mind. The sensorimotor stage is when infants use their senses and actions to help them discover the world. For example, have you noticed that babies put almost anything in their mouths? They are exploring through their senses!

  • The infant has not learned and stored a mental picture of the existing world. They also lack object permanence (the knowledge that an object is still there even if you can’t see it).

Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development, a photo of a baby with a block in it's mouth, VaiaFig. 1 The sensorimotor stage is about identifying things through manipulation.

At this stage, if you hide a toy the child was playing with, they will think that the toy has vanished or it no longer exists, meaning they have no object permanence. The infant develops object permanence around the age of 7-8 months. The development of object permanence is dependent on schemas.

The Pre-operational Stage (2–7 years)

At the ages of two and seven, a child can still not use proper logic and reasoning to solve problems. The child understands the world as only they can understand it at this age. Speaking or garbling at this age is common and the child’s way to communicate. Physical actions are also a way of discovery, such as using blocks to play with. Three important functions occur within this stage or window of time -- general symbolic function, animism, and egocentrism.

  • General symbolic function develops in this stage and refers to representing objects that are not seen mentally (A child pretends to pour tea into a cup for their teddies having a tea party).

  • This stage gives birth to animism in children, making them think that non-animated objects also talk and have feelings like us ( It is raining because the clouds are sad and crying).

  • Egocentrism develops in this stage as well, in which the child thinks that everyone around them experiences and feels from the same perspective as them.

The Concrete Operational Stage (7–11 years)

Now, at the concrete operational stage, the child can think more logically and problem-solve concrete events or events that can be perceived through vision. Here is where the concept of conservation develops. Conservation is the knowledge that something is still the same quantity even if its appearance changes.

If you have two cups of water of the same volume in the same kind of cups, then pour one cup into a taller, narrower container and ask a child which cup now has more water. Before this stage, the child would answer that the taller, narrower cup has more water.

As schemas begin to build within the cognition of children at these ages, class inclusion is also developed. Class inclusion means that the child can now classify sub-categorical objects under a higher category, such as types of animals.

Also, children in the concrete operational stage begin to be less egocentric and can show concern for others who may be showing signs of fright or sadness.

The Formal Operational Stage (11+)

How is the formal operational stage any different from the concrete operational stage? The formal operational stage is when a child can think internally about issues requiring theoretical and abstract reasoning, such as philosophical issues, which contrasts with the concrete operational stage (issues are being perceived only through what is seen).

In one experiment on formal operational thought, Piaget asked children to imagine where they would want to place a third eye if they had one.

Application of Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

The basic components of Piaget’s theory of cognitive development are -- schemas and the adaption process.

Schemas are mental representations of the world or objects around us that can be called small internal scripts based on our life experiences.

An example of schemas is knowing about dogs but learning later that there are different types of dogs, such as corgis or Daschunds.

The adaptation process is how learning and cognitive development occur. The child meets the situational demands by transitioning from one stage to another. The adaptation process is explained via assimilation, accommodation, and equilibrium.

  • Assimilation refers to using the existing schemas to understand new situations. An example would be a child who has seen clowns who may believe that every bald man with some curly hair on the side of their head is a clown.

  • Accommodation is when existing schemes are altered according to the new situation. The father will explain to the child that any bald man with curly side hair may look like a clown, but unless he wears a clown costume or does silly things to make people laugh, he is not a clown. As a result, the child will adopt a new standard image of the clown.

  • Equilibrium refers to a balance between old and new information (assimilation and accommodation). Equilibrium helps in progressing between the stages of cognitive development.

Evaluation of Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

The inter-rated reliability of Piaget’s theory is low, as he conducted the study through naturalistic observation of his children (biased results) and interviews with adolescents. He didn’t have another observer working with him to confirm his findings, which could have increased the reliability of his conclusions.

Other researchers question the generalisability of his findings because the children were all European and from the elite class. Piaget’s results were based on a small sample of his children and the children of his colleagues.

In Piaget’s theory, language is secondary to the action. Vygotsky (1978) argues (testing Piaget’s study) that the development of thought or reasoning goes in hand with language development. According to Vygotsky, reasoning has more links to communicating with other people than with the material world.

How does Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development compare to Piaget’s?

Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is about how children acquire knowledge and intelligence. Children pass through four stages of cognitive development, irrespective of their culture and gender. In contrast, Vygotsky suggested that social and cultural factors play an essential role in a child’s cognitive development.

Importance of Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

Piaget felt that children were not passive recipients of knowledge but were constantly investigating and experimenting as they built their understanding of how the world works. Many researchers after Piaget used his ideas for further research and began better understanding children's cognitive development. His ideas have mainly benefited the field of education, such as discovery learning, and brought practical ways of communicating well with children.

Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development - Key takeaways

  • What are the stages of cognitive development according to Piaget? -- sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and the formal operational stage.
  • The inter-rated reliability of Piaget’s theory is low, as he conducted the study through naturalistic observation of his children (biased results) and interviews with adolescents. He didn’t have another observer working with him to confirm his findings, which could have increased the reliability of his conclusions.
  • The basic components of Piaget’s theory of cognitive development are -- schemas and the adaption process.
  • Piaget felt that children were not passive recipients of knowledge but instead, are constantly investigating and experimenting as they build their understanding of how the world works.
  • The adaptation process is how learning and cognitive development occur. The child meets the situational demands by transitioning from one stage to another. The adaptation process is explained via assimilation, accommodation, and equilibrium.

Frequently Asked Questions about Piaget Theory of Cognitive Development

Jean Piaget proposed the theory of cognitive development based on his studies on children, observing how they acquire knowledge and intelligence. The four stages of Piaget’s cognitive development theory are sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operational and formal operational.

Piaget proposed his theory of cognitive development in 1936.

The three essential components are schemas (mental representations of the world or objects around us), the adaptation process (how cognitive development and learning occurs) and stages of development (the sensorimotor stage 0–2 years, the preoperational stage 2–7 years, the concrete operational stage 7–11 years, and formal operational stage 11+ years).

Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is about how children acquire knowledge and intelligence. Children pass through four stages of cognitive development, irrespective of their culture and gender. In contrast, Vygotsky suggested that social and cultural factors play an essential role in a child’s cognitive development.

Piaget’s theory of cognitive development can be cited in the Origins of intelligence in Children (1936).

Final Piaget Theory of Cognitive Development Quiz

Piaget Theory of Cognitive Development Quiz - Teste dein Wissen

Question

When did Piaget propose his theory of cognitive development?

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Answer

In 1936.

Show question

Question

Cognitive development takes place with the interaction between________ and environmental situations.

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Answer

Natural abilities

Show question

Question

Children pass through four stages of cognitive development, irrespective of their _______ and gender.

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Answer

Culture

Show question

Question

The infant has no mental picture of the existing world, learned and stored in their memory. According to Piaget, which cognitive stage does this statement follow?

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Answer

Sensorimotor stage.

Show question

Question

Which stage gives birth to animism in children that makes them think non-animated objects also talk and have feelings like us?

Show answer

Answer

Pre-operational stage.

Show question

Question

Children at this stage tend to reason only on physically material things. According to Piaget, which cognitive stage does this statement follow?

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Answer

Concrete operational stage.

Show question

Question

Formal operations are not contingent on physical and perceptual constraints. According to Piaget, which cognitive stage does this statement follow?

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Answer

Formal operational stage.

Show question

Question

Concrete operation is carried out on _______, whereas formal operations are performed on ideas.

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Answer

Things

Show question

Question

In Piaget’s theory,  ______ is secondary to the action. 

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Answer

Language

Show question

Question

Piaget’s based his results on a small sample of his children and children of his colleagues, which is a _______ issue.

Show answer

Answer

Generalisability

Show question

Question

List down the stages of cognitive development described by Piaget (1936).

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Answer

The stages of development include the sensorimotor stage, the pre-operational stage, the concrete operational stage, and the formal operational stage.

Show question

Question

What are the pros of Piaget’s research (1936) to cognitive psychology?

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Answer

Many researchers after Piaget used his ideas for further research and began to understand the cognitive development of children better. His ideas have particularly benefited education, such as discovery learning and brought practical ways of communicating well with children.

Show question

Question

What are the cons of Piaget’s research (1936) to cognitive psychology?

Show answer

Answer

The inter-rated reliability of Piaget’s theory is low, as he conducted the study through naturalistic observation on his children (biased results) and interviews with adolescents. He didn’t have another observer working with him to confirm his findings, which could have increased the reliability of his findings.

Show question

Question

What is object permanence, according to Piaget (1936)?

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Answer

It means to believe in the existence of an object even if you can’t see it. For example, if a child has developed object permanence and you hide their toy from them, they will search for it.

Show question

Question

What was Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development?

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Answer

Piaget suggested that children pass through four stages of cognitive development, irrespective of their culture and gender. The sequence of the four stages is in the same order for all children but might not be at the same rate, as some children might take longer to achieve a stage.

Show question

Question

What are the components of Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development?

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Answer

The components of Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development are - 

  1. Schemas
  2. The adaptation process, including assimilation, accommodation and equilibrium

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank - ______ are mental representations of the world or objects around us that can be called small internal scripts based on our life experiences. 

Show answer

Answer

Schemas

Show question

Question

How can the adaptation process be explained?

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Answer

It can be explained via three different processes - assimilation, accommodation and equilibrium.

Show question

Question

"Assimilation refers to using the existing schemas to understand new situations." Give an example of this.

Show answer

Answer

A child who has seen clowns may believe that every bald man with some curly hair on the side of their head is a clown.

Show question

Question

What is accommodation?

Show answer

Answer

Accommodation is when existing schemes are altered according to the new situation. 

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank - _____ helps in progressing between the stages of cognitive development.

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Answer

Equilibrium.

Show question

Question

What are the different ages at which the four stages of Piaget's Cognitive Development take place?

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Answer

  1. Sensorimotor - 0-2 years
  2. Pre-operational - 2-7 years
  3. Concrete operational - 7-11 years
  4. Formal operational - 11+ years

Show question

Question

True or False - A child can miss one of the four stages of development, but cannot move from one stage to another at a different age than the one specified.

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Answer

True.

Show question

Question

What is the development of 'object permanence' dependent upon?

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Answer

It is dependent upon schemas.

Show question

Question

What is 'animism'?

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Answer

'Animism' makes children think that non-animated objects also talk and have feelings like us.

Show question

Question

What is 'egocentrism'?

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Answer

'Egocentrism' is when the child thinks that everyone around them experiences and feels from the same perspective as them.

Show question

Question

Why is the concrete operational stage considered to be a significant stage?

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Answer

This is because the child starts to think logically and problem solves concrete events (events that can be perceived with the eye).

Show question

Question

What is 'conservation', and during which stage is it developed?

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Answer

'Conservation' is the knowledge that something is still the same quantity even if its appearance changes. It is developed in the concrete operational stage.

Show question

Question

Give an example of 'conservation'.

Show answer

Answer

If you have two cups of water of the same volume in the same kind of cups, then pour one cup into a taller, narrower container and ask a child which cup now has more water. Before this stage, the child would answer that the taller, narrower cup has more water.

Show question

Question

What is 'class-inclusion'?

Show answer

Answer

It is the ability to classify sub-categories of something under a higher category simultaneously. 

Show question

Question

"They can think hypothetically and plan for the future, thinking about issues that require theoretical and abstract reasoning (e.g., political/philosophical issues)."


According to Piaget, which cognitive stage does this statement follow?

Show answer

Answer

The formal operational stage.

Show question

Question

What is the difference between the concrete operational stage and the formal operational stage?

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Answer

The difference between concrete and formal operation is that concrete operation is carried out on things that can be perceived only with the eye, whereas formal operations are performed on ideas (intangible objects). 

Show question

Question

Why is the inter-rated reliability of Piaget's theory considered low?

Show answer

Answer

This is because he conducted the study through naturalistic observation on his children (biased results) and interviews with adolescents. He didn’t have another observer working with him to confirm his findings, which could have increased the reliability of his conclusions.

Show question

Question

What does Vygotsky (1978) argue?

Show answer

Answer

Vygotsky (1978) argues (testing Piaget’s study) that the development of thought or reasoning goes in hand with language development. According to Vygotsky, reasoning has more links to communicating with other people than with the material world.

Show question

Question

Give an example of 'class-inclusion.'

Show answer

Answer

When a child is able to categorise both 'dogs' and 'cats' into the category of 'animals'.

Show question

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