Jean Piaget's Theory
Jean Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development:
Children adapt old methods (assimilation) or change them (accommodation) to deal with new situations. Using these two processes, children go through a series of cognitive stages.
Piaget's cognitive stages:
1. Sensorimotor stage (birth to 2 years):
Concepts: Sensory experiences & motor actions - Object permanence
During this time, Piaget said that a child's cognitive system is limited to motor reflexes at birth, but the child builds on these reflexes to develop more sophisticated procedures. They learn to generalize their activities to a wider range of situations and coordinate them into increasingly lengthy chains of behavior.
2. Preoperational stage (2 to 6 years):
Concepts: Symbols - Conservation - Egocentric thinking
At this age, according to Piaget, children acquire representational skills in the areas of mental imagery, and especially language. They are very self-oriented, and have an egocentric view; that is, preoperational children can use these representational skills only to view the world from their own perspective.
3. Concrete operations stage (7 to 11 years) :
Concepts: Mental operations - Conservation & Classification
As opposed to Preoperational children, children in the concrete operations stage are able to take another's point of view and take into account more than one perspective simultaneously. They can also represent transformations as well as static situations. Although they can understand concrete problems, Piaget would argue that they cannot yet perform on abstract problems, and that they do not consider all of the logically possible outcomes.
4. Formal operations stage (12 to adult):
Adult thinking & reasoning
- Abstract ideas & hypothetical constructs
Children who attain the formal operation stage are capable of thinking logically and abstractly. They can also reason theoretically. Piaget considered this the ultimate stage of development, and stated that although the children would still have to revise their knowledge base, their way of thinking was as powerful as it would get.
Piaget's key ideas
1. Children gradually & in a step-by-step fashion develop reasoning abilities through the active processes of assimilation & accommodation.
2. Children are naturally curious & intrinsically motivated to explore their worlds, and in the process, develop cognitive skills.
3. Children acquire different kinds of thinking and reasoning abilities as they go through different stages of cognitive development.
It is now thought that not every child reaches the formal operation stage. Developmental psychologists also debate whether children do go through the stages in the way that Piaget postulated. Whether Piaget was correct or not, it is safe to say that his theory of cognitive development has had a tremendous influence on all modern developmental psychologists.
Topics in Psychology
Robert C. Gates