Basic Psychology, History Of Psychology

Piaget’s Theories

The 4 Stages of Cognitive Development

Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development suggests that children move through four different stages of mental development. His theory focuses not only on understanding how children acquire knowledge, but also on understanding the nature of intelligence. Piaget’s stages are:

  • Sensorimotor stage: birth to 2 years
  • Preoperational stage: ages 2 to 7
  • Concrete operational stage: ages 7 to 11
  • Formal operational stage: ages 12 and up

Piaget believed that children take an active role in the learning process, acting much like little scientists as they perform experiments, make observations, and learn about the world. As kids interact with the world around them, they continually add new knowledge, build upon existing knowledge, and adapt previously held ideas to accommodate new information.

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The Sensorimotor Stage
Ages: Birth to 2 Years

Major Characteristics and Developmental Changes:

  • The infant knows the world through their movements and sensations.
  • Children learn about the world through basic actions such as sucking, grasping, looking, and listening.
  • Infants learn that things continue to exist even though they cannot be seen (object permanence).
  • They are separate beings from the people and objects around them.
  • They realize that their actions can cause things to happen in the world around them.

The Preoperational Stage
Ages: 2 to 7 Years

Major Characteristics and Developmental Changes:

  • Children begin to think symbolically and learn to use words and pictures to represent objects.
  • Children at this stage tend to be egocentric and struggle to see things from the perspective of others.
  • While they are getting better with language and thinking, they still tend to think about things in very concrete terms.

The Concrete Operational Stage
Ages: 7 to 11 Years

Major Characteristics and Developmental Changes

  • During this stage, children begin to thinking logically about concrete events.
  • They begin to understand the concept of conservation; that the amount of liquid in a short, wide cup is equal to that in a tall, skinny glass, for example.
  • Their thinking becomes more logical and organized, but still very concrete.
  • Children begin using inductive logic, or reasoning from specific information to a general principle.

The Formal Operational Stage
Ages: 12 and Up

Major Characteristics and Developmental Changes:

  • At this stage, the adolescent or young adult begins to think abstractly and reason about hypothetical problems.
  • Abstract thought emerges.
  • Teens begin to think more about moral, philosophical, ethical, social, and political issues that require theoretical and abstract reasoning.
  • Begin to use deductive logic, or reasoning from a general principle to specific information.

Genetic epistemology

Piaget identified himself as a genetic epistemologist. “What the genetic epistemology proposes is discovering the roots of the different varieties of knowledge, since its elementary forms, following to the next levels, including also the scientific knowledge,” he explained in his book Genetic Epistemology.Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with the origin, nature, extent and limits of human knowledge. He was interested not only in the nature of thought, but in how it develops and understanding how genetics impact this process.His early work with Binet’s intelligence tests had led him to conclude that children think differently than adults. While this is a widely accepted notion today, it was considered revolutionary at the time. It was this observation that inspired his interest in understand how knowledge grows throughout childhood.

He suggested that children sort the knowledge they acquire through their experiences and interactions into groupings known as schemas. When new information is acquired, it can either be assimilated into existing schemas or accomodated through revising and existing schema or creating an entirely new category of information.Today, he is best known for his research on children’s cognitive development. Piaget studied the intellectual development of his own three children and created a theory that described the stages that children pass through in the development of intelligence and formal thought processes.

The theory identifies four stages:

  1. The sensorimotor stage: The first stage of development lasts from birth to approximately age two. At this point in development, children know the world primarily through their senses and motor movements.
  2. The preoperational stage: The second stage of development lasts from the ages of two to seven and is characterized by the development of language and the emergence of symbolic play.
  3. The concrete operational stage: The third stage of cognitive development lasts from the ages of seven to approximately age 11. At this point, logical thought emerges but children still struggle with abstract and theoretical thinking.
  4. The formal operation stage: In the fourth and final stage of cognitive development, lasting from age 12 and into adulthood, children become much more adept and abstract thought and deductive reasoning.

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