Piaget's Stages of Cog. Devel. (Developmental Series)

Kat Thomson
Lesson by Kat Thomson
Magoosh Expert
Related Blog Posts

Correction:  Piaget was born in 1896, not 1869.  Sorry about the typo/mistake!

Learn More About Magoosh MCAT
Piaget's Cognitive Stages. We're right here in 6B, it looks like a little concept, but Piaget's a big MCAT concept. Comes up all the time, so very important to know. He was born in 1869, you don't need to know that, but that's to help you a little bit with the context of when he was writing.

His perspectives were multiple, so he engaged in clinical, developmental and cognitive psychology, but he's mostly known for cognitive. So when in doubt, go back to cognitive if any questions come up about his perspective. His goal, in terms of cognitive stages is that he was interested in what he termed genetic epistemology.

And this is the study of the origins of an individual's knowledge set. So epistemology is the study of knowledge. Genetic is where does it come from? He was notable and unique in his cognitive theory. For believing that first of all, that children develop logical reasoning through a series of stages.

It's not just incremental, it's not just accumulating knowledge. But kids have certain growth marks where all of a sudden their thinking takes a different level, and so he divided this up into actually more than four. I think you need to only know the main four. But he believed that there were quanitivity different stages of cognitively.

They cannot be compared to adults because their minds work in qaulatativly distinct ways. And as a result of this, he said that when it comes to intelligence, the processes of learning and reasoning are more important than the facts that a person knows. A four year old could be more intelligent than a 40 year old eventhough that 40 year old is going to have a much, much larger knowledge set.

These are his primary four stages, and I'm going to describe them each in detail in a second. But first I just wanna give you a couple of tips on how you can remember which go with which age. So sensorimotor, ages 0 to 2, sensation is everything at this age and kids become mobile.

Preoperational 2 to 7 preschool, so even though 7 is no longer in the realm of preschool and neither is 6 and 5 is kind of on the border. Still, we're looking mostly at that 2, 3, 4 year old age range. Concrete operational, I focus on this word concrete. So kids at this age, jumping rope, playing 4-square, hopscotch on concrete outside. Especially kids in the lower age range here.

And then formal operational, teenagers might or might not attend a formal dance at a school. So that's the hallmark word that I focus on here. What's more important than knowing the ages is knowing what happens at each of these stages. So at this stage sensorimotor, kids are learning through the 5 senses, manipulating objects, they do simple trial-and-error to understand how things works in their environment.

They're not doing a lot of symbolic thinking yet at least not to the degree of having much language. And some of the important skills they develop coordination, intentional imitation. So babies do imitate from very, very early on, but at some point it becomes intentional around the end of infancy.

Object recognition and what's called object permanence. This is understanding that people and other items still exist even when they're out of sight. And so if you hide something from a baby who's just about two years old, hide it on top of the fridge. They know that that toy or that food item, or whatever it is they're looking for is still there.

A younger infant does not know this. Next stage is preoperational. At this age kids learn by thinking relationally, And they start to think to a much, much greater degree in terms of symbols. So I have A, B, C here, but it can also mean something like being able to associate a chef's hat with someone who's cooking with a kitchen.

So understanding that symbols can stand for other things and can signify other things. Egocentrism, so kids this age have difficulty taking on another's perspective. Which means that if you ask them how do things look from my perspective. And so if you're facing a child, this is a classic test, and you ask a child what am I looking at right now?

What do I see in front of me, the child is likely to report back what they are currently looking at. So if you're in a different angle, which means obviously you're looking at different things within a room or within a park or where have you, those kids aren't always able to understand. Animism, so this is believing objects have human thoughts and emotions.

And in particular, have thoughts and emotions that reflect that child's thoughts and emotions. So kids this age often think that their toys are alive. And also project their own thoughts and feelings onto the toys. And centration which is focusing on one element of a situation or story at a time and ignoring the rest of the context of what's going on.

And often times not even focusing on the most important or central aspect of what's going on. Just picking up on a detail and running with that when it comes to where they their attention goes. Concrete operational stage, 7 to 12. Kids learn through inductive logical reasoning, so looking at the details first and drawing conclusions from details.

I have a picture here of looking at an insect under a microscope. So kids at this age a lot of the science that they do is based largely on observation, it's very tangible. Piaget said children at this stage have the ability of conservation. This is quantitive reasoning, So an example of conservation is looking at maybe two beakers, perhaps these two.

If you ask a child who's younger, which has more liquid? The younger child will just say whichever one has the higher water mark. So here it's pretty easy to tell that the left here, this looks a little fuller and also has a larger base. We're looking at a larger amount of liquid here. But let's say that this was actually a skinnier beaker, right?

A kid of this age, 7 to 12 will realize that they don't entirely know which container has more liquid if these containers are different shapes. You have to find a more consistent way of measuring quantities. Classification refers to separating items by shared qualities and putting them into hierarchies. Younger kids have classification abilities.

Like they can say if somethings an animal or a plant, but there's a limit to that ability. And so when you see classification just remember C, concrete. Reversibility, knowing things can be put back into an original state, and with this comes the ability to count backwards or go through a series of events in reverse order.

Thinking about the teddy bear example from a pre-operational child. If the teddy bear busts a seam and the stuffing comes out, well that younger child is likely to cry for two reasons. Especially, if they're closer to the 2 year old mark rather than the 7. One is they might think that teddy bear has feelings and is hurt. And the other is that they might not understand that it can be fixed.

So kids of this age understand that things that break can be put back. And seriation, this is the ability to arrange objects according to some kind of quantitative value, that's slightly more abstract. So if you show a kid this age, ten different cards that are all different sizes. And they have a person's face on them, and those faces represent a broad range of ages.

You asked them to arrange according to the age of the person on the card, does kids this age can do that. Younger kids are more likely to arrange them based on the size of the card. And then last we have formal operational 12 onward. Children at this age and adults think and learn largely through abstract reasoning. Taking a theory or principle and then applying them to situations.

Skills include, deductive reasoning, problem solving, or more complex, problem solving. Kids of all ages are always doing problem solving, to some degree. Hypothetical scenarios, so kids this age could say something a little bit more involved about what might happen if we colonize the moon? Younger kids, you might just focus on a couple interesting details about what that might look like or feel like.

They might not think through it in more broad terms. Constructing arguments and then metacognition, which is thinking about the process of thought itself. Younger kids can be very philosophical, and people who've spent time around kids know this. But it's harder for them to understand the concept of philosophy at the same level.

You have to have a really broad perspective to understand what it means to study the process of thought, it's abstract. So Jean Piaget has been criticized for a few things. I'm just gonna go through this kind of quickly. First is his problematic research methods. He didn't have a lot of interrater reliability.

Which refers to the research setup where you have multiple researcher study the same thing. And then try and find out if they all come to similar conclusions as a way to test the conclusions themselves. Also, a fair amount of his data came from studying how own 3 children. And this was pretty common actually up until about the 1970s.

And it's still sometimes used as a research technique, but it's usually not looked at very favorably. Also preoperational children seem to be a little better at perspective taking than he described, a little less egocentric. And last, some mentally capable adults never reach the formal operational stage. If we think about mental disabled adults, well many of them don't even reach concrete stages depending on the severity of their disability.

But they are adults who every other purpose or reason seem to be functioning pretty well cognitively, but they might just be super, super concrete thinkers Question, a child reads a book about a trip to the zoo. In one illustration, people are shown licking ice cream cones. This boy lives ice cream. For months, he refers to the book as the story about the boy who likes ice cream.

Which of the following traits is he demonstrating? Egocentricism? Well probably yes. If you remember my example of kids projecting thoughts and feelings onto their stuffed animals? In this case, he's projecting maybe his own preferences onto the people in the story.

We don't know anything about the plot of this story. All we know is there's an illustration where they're having ice cream, and he's focusing on the ice cream. So that means there's some centration going on. The child's picking up on a detail that interests him, not necessarily the main point.

Inductive logic is something that's found in the concrete operational stage. And so we're left with one and three. Which is C.

Show Transcript

Next Lesson