Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

One of the most important theories in psychology is J. Piaget‘s theory of cognitive development. J. Piaget was a Swiss biologist and psychologist. He made this theory. In this theory he describes and explains the change in the logical thinking of all children. According to the name of J. Piaget, the theory of cognitive development is better known as J. Piaget’s theory.
By researching the cognitive development of children of different ages, Piaget says that there are 4 stages of cognitive development of children as well as human beings. They are –
1) Sensory Motor Stage
2) Pre-Operational Stage
3) Concrete Operational Stage
4) Formal Operational Stage

1) Sensory Motor Stage –

This stage lasts from birth to 24 months. At this stage children are very simple and they do not have any knowledge. During this time they have some active senses, which can create sensations. They also have the ability to perform some of the most common motor activity. At this stage children interact with the environment using their senses and the ability to perform motor activity, resulting in the development of their knowledge. That is why this stage has been named as sensory-motor stage.
Two important features of this stage are – i) Egocentrism and ii) Object Permanence.

i) Egocentrism:

At this stage the child lives in his own world and he is busy with himself. At this time he is not aware of the existence of others. At the time of birth, children do not have social awareness at all. However, with age, they become aware of the existence of others as well as society.

ii) Object Permanence:

At this stage children have no sense about Object Permanence. When an object or person is shifted away from children, they think that the object or person is no more. According to Piaget, this is called the lack of consciousness about the permanence of the object.

2) Pre-Operational Stage –

The second stage of Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development is the stage of Pre-Operational Stage. This stage extends from 2 years to 7 years of age. According to Piaget, activism is the mental process of acquiring knowledge. According to Piaget mental actions are comparing one object with others, understanding their similarities and differences, measuring them, removing them, bringing back them and so on. To know about an object we need to be proactive towards it. With the acquiring of knowledge children begin to become active at this stage. In this stage children first time begin to realize the existence of objects. At this stage of development children start to use language, which is used as a sign or symbol of concept. However, children can’t use language at this time as a symbol of perfect conception. Children’s memory and imagination begin to develop at this stage.
The important features of this stage are i) Animism, ii) Realism, iii) Artificiality, iv) Transductive Reasoning.

i) Animism:

Animism is the concept based on which it is seemed that everything is alive. This feature is seen in children at this stage. Due to this feature, children also impute the existence of life to inanimate objects at this time and consider them as animate.

ii) Realism:

From this stage children gradually start to realize the existence of the real world. At first children do not have a clear idea about the outer world and the inner world. Later, towards the end of this stage, children’s ideas about the outer world and the inner world gradually become clear.

iii) Artificiality:

At this stage children think everything is man-made. Piaget said this as artificiality.

iv) Transductive Reasoning:

Transductive Reasoning is a judgment where a link is made between unrelated content. This type of reasoning is seen in the children at the Pre-Operational Stage of cognitive development of Piaget. For example, a child heard the barking of a dog and then saw a train coming. In this case the child’s argument is that the dog barked so the train is coming. Neither inductive reasoning nor deductive reasoning is used for making this type of Reasoning.

3) Concrete Operational Stage –

The third stage of Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development is Concrete Operational Stage. This stage is very diverse and important in the development of the child’s life. The duration of this stage is 7 to 11 years. Significant differences between Pre-Operational Stage of thinking and Concrete Operational Stage of thinking is seen. Rational thinking and decision making based on it, are the key features of this stage. The ability of children’s reasoning at this stage provides satisfaction to adults. Actual mental activation is seen at this stage. However, at this time children can be mentally active in the context of tangible objects or events, not in the context of abstract thoughts or events.
At this stage of life development, Piaget says about a variety of ‘operations’. Notable among them are – i) The concept of conservation, ii) The concept of numbers, iii) The concept of classification and iv) The concept of hierarchy.

i) The concept of conservation:

The concept of conservation is the feeling where it is seen that even after an object changes externally the original object does not change. In this context, an experiment of Piaget can be mentioned. Up to a certain height of water was poured into two identical containers. Now the water from one container is poured into another relatively long but narrow container. Normally the water level in the third container will be higher. Now if an 7-year-old child is asked which container has the most water, he can say that the third container has the same amount of water. The concept of equal amount of water has been conserved here.

ii) The concept of numbers:

At this stage numerical concept develops among children. Here the concept of numbers does not refer to mathematical processing of numbers. Here it is meant about the concept of number one, two, three etc. The concept of numbers are formed through the two types of ‘operations’ that are classification and sequencing.
For example, at this stage, when the child forms concept about the number 2, he means 2 as a class of 2 subjects or objects. Again, in order to form the correct concept of the number 2, he knows that it is a number that comes after 1 and before 3.

iii) The concept of classification:

The concept of class, comes through a special kind of mental activation. Classification is the aggregation of objects on the basis of similarity. For example, when a child can separate all the red objects from many objects of different colors, it can be said that the child has learned to think of all the red objects together.

iv) The concept of hierarchy:

The concept of hierarchy at the stage of Concrete Operational Stage refers to arranging objects according to increasing or decreasing their size. Children at this stage can arrange tangible objects from small to large or from large to small.

4) Formal Operational Stage –

The fourth and last stage of Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development is Formal Operational Stage. This stage extends from the age of 11 years to about 18 years. Children between the ages of 11 and 14 are confined only to the real world. After this age children begin to acquire the ability to think abstractly. That is, the development of abstract thinking ability begins in children from the age of about 15 years. As a result, from this time, boys and girls are able to think rationally about abstract ideas.
At the stage of Formal Operational Stage boys and girls can think about the future and argue in terms of possibilities. They may even think about the possibility of something about which they are not sure. At this stage they can search for relationships between different events.
At this stage, already formed concepts about preservation, classification, number, sequence, etc., spread among the boys and girls, which helps them in their advanced abstract thinking.
The important feature of this stage is –
1) At this stage boys and girls can decide which solution is better after analyzing different aspects of situation or problem. They do all this, using the thought process organized on the basis of logic.
2) At this stage, boys and girls collect information from all sources to solve the problem and solve the problem by combining all the information as required.
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