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Cognitive Development Stages


Jean Piaget

Jean Piget described four major stages of intellectual (cognitive) development which are related to major development in brain growth.  Piaget described the four major stages leading to the capacity for adult thought. Each stage is a prerequisite for the following one.

  1. Sensorimotor stage (Birth - 2 year) : - It is characterized by: -
    D Infants begin to learn through sensory observation, and they gain control of their motor functions through activity, exploration and manipulation of the environment.
    1. Differentiates self from objects, i.e., development of object performance.
    2. Achieves object permanence, i.e. realizes that things continue to exist even when no longer present to the sense.
    3. Symbolization: - Ability to create visual image of object.
  2. Pre-operational stage (2-7 years) : - It is characterized by : -
    1. Egocentric thinking: - Child has difficulty taking the viewpoint of others.
    2. Animism: - Belief that inanimate objects are capable of actions and have life like qualities. For example, a child believes that the side walk was mad and made him fall down.
    3. Primitive (intuitive) thinking : - Unable to think logically e.g., A child is presented two beakers of identical size containing the same amount of water. The child usually notes that the beakers have same amount of water. When one beaker is poured into a taller and thinner container, the child thinks that the beaker (second one) and container contain different amount of liquid.
    4. Learns to use language and to represent objects by images and words.
    5. Centration i.e., act of focusing all attention on one characteristic compared to others for example, classifies object by a single feature; e.g., groups together all the red blocks regardless of shape and size or all the square blocks regardless of colour.
    6. Magical thinking/ phenomenalistic causality: - The events occuring together are thought to cause one another, e.g., raining cause lightening.
  3. Concrete operational stage/concrete thinking (7-11 years) : - It is characterized by: -
    1. Can think logically about objects and events.
    2. Conservation: -Achieves conservation of nurnber (age 6), mass (age 7), and weight(age9).For example. if the water of a beaker is poured into a taller and thinner container, the child recognizes that both beakers contain same amount of liquid.
    3. Classification: - Classifies objects according to several features and can order them in series along a single dimension such as size (seriation).
    4. Reversibility : - Able to realize reversibility of things that can turn into another e.g., ice and water.
    5. Transitivity: - The ability to recognize logical relationship among elements in serial orders and perform transitive inference (e.g., if A is taller than B, and B is taller than C, Then A must be taller than C).
    6. Can only solve problems that apply to actual (concrete) objects or events, and not abstract concepts or hypothetical tasks.
  4. Formal operational stage (11 years and up) /Abstract thinking: -It is characterized by : -
    1. Can think logically about abstract prepositions and test hypotheses systemically.
    2. Becomes concerned with the hypothetical, the future and idealogical problems.
    3. Can conceptualize or generalize, understanding that each concept can have multiple meanings, i.e. Abstract thinking is ability to form or understand concepts that are not seen or that can not be touched.
    4. The ability to systematically solve a problem in a logical and methodical way emerge.

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