How 4 Stages From Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development Explain Your Mind’s Growth

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what is cognitive development theory?

In 1936, a Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget published a theory called ‘Theory of Cognitive Development’.

Cognitive development is a study that talks about how a child solves a problem, experiments different things, observes the results, and develops a thinking process based on previous knowledge and the current results.

Key ideas of the Jean piaget’s theory

  1. According to this theory, children go through four sequential stages of mental development from infanthood till adolescence.
  2. During these developmental stages, they acquire knowledge through different experiences, learn from them, comprehend them, and use them throughout their lives.
  3. The theory is mainly focused on the development of their language skills, memory, and reasoning ability.

Assumptions of the cognitive development theory

Different assumptions about the intellectual development process were made which lead to the formulation of this theory. Some of these assumptions were:

  • Children are naturally curious to learn different things.
  • They do experiments and then acquire knowledge from their results.
  • They do not depend on adults to learn things as they start learning with age on their own.

what are the Four Stages of the Theory of Cognitive Development?

Jean Piaget gave four stages each with a specific age of human being and told which characteristics develop the most in each stage. These four stages are:

  1. The sensorimotor stage (age range: from birth to 2 years of age)
  2. The preoperational stage (age range: from 2 to 7 years of age)
  3. The concrete operational stage (age range: from 7 to 11 years of age)
  4. The formal operational stage (age range: from 11 years to adulthood)

According to this theory, these stages happen in the same sequence and no stage is skipped or missed during the development process.

Stage 1: The Sensorimotor Stage

The first stage of cognitive development is of the shortest duration (2 years) yet a lot of learning and developmental changes happen during it.

WHAT is the sensorimotor stage about?

Infants develop the concept of things by using different senses. They perform actions like chewing, touching, sucking, tasting, biting, smelling, and a lot more to understand the world.

Through these actions, they make discoveries every other moment. They go through a trial and error phase and comprehend how things feel in the world.

what happen during the stage 1?

During this stage, they are not supported by the language but they learn to communicate (via motor actions) without it easily. They develop a concept of ‘object permanence’ – objects exist around them even if they are unable to see them.

Stage 2: The Preoperational Stage

Children who are 2 to 7 years old go through the second stage of cognitive development called the preoperational stage.

WHAT is the preoperational stage about?

This stage is mainly known for their ability to learn symbolic thinking in which they use words, gestures, and signs to represent people or things that are even absent from their surroundings. Although basic language learning started in the previous stage, it emerges out as a great skill during this stage.

what happen during the stage 2?

During this stage, they are imaginative, far away from reality. Their intelligence is innate and they do not understand the point of view of other people (see things from their own point of view). Their imaginations and memory grow during this period. They are more engaged in make-believe play. For example, many of us see children of this age who grab a bottle and pretend it to be a baby that they are carrying. Though they know that in actuality the object is a bottle, not a real baby but again they don’t think realistically.

Stage 3: The Concrete Operational Stage

Children who are of age 7 to 11 years go through a great improvement in their thinking process during the third stage called the concrete operational stage.

WHAT is the concrete operational stage about?

In the previous stage, they could not comprehend logics but a dramatic change happens in this stage and they initiate thinking logically. They understand the different perspectives of different people even if they do not agree with them.

They use inductive reasoning during logical thinking in which they come to a general conclusion based on a specific example. But they fail to use deductive reasoning which involves moving from a general principle to a specific case. They also struggle with hypothetical ideas. They understand that their thoughts or feelings are unique and do not have to match with the thoughts or feelings of others.

what happen during the stage 3?

Their problem-solving ability gets improved a lot as compared to the ability of younger children. Children going through this stage grasp the concept of conservation which means they understand that the weight of a thing does not change even if we change its shape (weight or mass stays the same even if shape changes from round to flat).

Stage 4: The Formal Operational Stage

According to Jean Piaget, the formal operational stage is the final stage of the intellectual development process.

WHAT is the formal operational stage about?

Children who are 12 years old go through it until they reach their adulthood. During this period, they start using hypothetical reasoning which is assumption based thinking.

Here, the main achievement is that children start understanding abstract concepts in which they assume things that are not related to reality. They start taking political, public, moral, and philosophical ideas into consideration through abstract thinking.

what happen during the stage 4?

In the previous stage, they were able to use inductive reasoning but in this last stage, they start using deductive reasoning alongside inductive reasoning to draw conclusions.

According to Piaget, this stage is the last stage of the cognitive development process and during further intellectual development, only knowledge buildup occurs.

He says that children acquire knowledge and develop intelligence not by going through a quantitative process but by going through these four sequential stages.

Critics and weakness of the piaget’s theory

Although these four stages have lots of importance in psychology, studies published later proved there are many problems in these stages.

For example, Piaget did not mention the cultural effect on the intellectual development of the human brain.

He interviewed children, developed charts based on the answers, and observed the whole process all alone (without including any other researchers during this research) which raised the question if all interpretations are biased or not?

Concluding Remarks from the Theory of cognitive development theory

Apart from all the critics, this theory helped us take an idea of how intellectual growth occurs in children. It told us that children are like little scientists who learn through different experiments that they conduct and then investigate their own findings. They do not merely accumulate knowledge rather develop the thought process gradually.