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Piaget's cognitive development

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Stroop test is used in neuropsychological evaluations to measure mental vitality and flexibility, since performing well requires strong attention and self-regulation capability.

Stroop Test


In which direction is the bus pictured below traveling? Logic




The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.When you teach a child something you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself.

Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget

Alfred BinetMolluscs


Jean PiagetGenetic Epistemology (the origins of thinking)

How we come to know

Role of Maturation (increasing capacity to understand the world)

Ability to do Abstract Reasoning

Genetics is the scientific study of where things come from (their origins). Epistemology is concerned with the basic categories of thinking, that is to say, the framework or structural properties of intelligence.

What he was more interested in was the way in which fundamental concepts like the very idea of number, time quantity, causality, justice and so on emerged.7

Jean PiagetHow does knowledge grow?The growth of knowledge is a progressive construction of logically embedded structures superseding one another by a process of inclusion of lower less powerful logical means into higher and more powerful ones up to adulthood. Therefore, children's logic and modes of thinking are initially entirely different from those of adults.

Proposedchildren's thinking does not develop entirely smoothly. Instead, there are certain points which it "takes off and moves into completely new areas and capabilities.

Transitions: about 18 months, 7 yrs and 11 or 12 years

Not capable of understanding things in certain ways,basis for scheduling the school curriculum.

Process of Cognitive Development

CognitiveDevelopment-To Piaget, it is a progressive reorganization of mental processes as a result of biological maturation and environmental experience.

To Piaget, cognitive development wasa progressive reorganization of mental processes as a result of biological maturation and environmental experience. Children construct an understanding of the world around them, then experience discrepancies between what they already know and what they discover in their environment.11

Schema (Piaget)Piaget (1952) defined a schema as:

'a cohesive, repeatable action sequence possessing component actions that are tightly interconnected and governed by a core meaning'.

simple terms Piaget called the schema the basic building block of intelligent behavior a way of organizing knowledge.12

Schema (Piaget)Represent world and designate actionInfants schema at birth is called reflexes (innate schemas)SchemaStructures - complex schemaHierarchical - general to specific

A schema can be defined as a set of linked mental representations of the world, which we use both to understand and to respond to situations.

The assumption is that we store these mental representations and apply them when needed.13

How an Organism Adapt

how an organism adapts to its environment (Piaget described as intelligence.) Behavior (adaptation to the environment) is controlled through mental organizations called schemata (sometimes called schema or schemes) that the individual uses to represent the world and designate action. This adaptation is driven by a biological drive to obtain balance between schemes and the environment (equilibration).


How an Organism Adapt

how an organism adapts to its environment (Piaget described as intelligence.) Behavior (adaptation to the environment) is controlled through mental organizations called schemata (sometimes called schema or schemes) that the individual uses to represent the world and designate action. This adaptation is driven by a biological drive to obtain balance between schemes and the environment (equilibration).

EQUILIBRATIONThis is the force which moves development along. It is the force which drives the learning process as we do not like to be frustrated and will seek to restore balance by mastering the new challenge (accommodation).



AssimilationAccommodation-Outside to Inside-Inside to Outside- 2 complementary processes of Adaptation- awareness of the outside world is internalised.- inseparable, dialectic relationship

Example of Accommodation

In the clown incident, the boys father explained to his son that the man was not a clown and that even though his hair was like a clowns, he wasnt wearing a funny costume and wasnt doing silly things to make people laugh.With this new knowledge, the boy was able to change his schema of clown and make this idea fit better to a standard concept of clown.




Classification - group, same featuresConservation - stay the same, even when changedEgocentrism - centre of universe: everything revolves around you, early stage of psychological development


KEY IDEASClass Inclusion


Class Inclusion - classification++, sub-sets of a larger classOperation - working something out in your head.




Stage - period in a child's development in which he or she is capable of understandingsome things but not others

Stages of DevelopmentA child's cognitive development is about a child developing or constructing a mental model of the world.

Development - biologically based and changes as the child matures.

Cognition - develops in all children in the same sequence of stages

Individual differences in the rate

These stages are universal

Each child goes through the stages in the same order, and no stage can be missed out - although some individuals may never attain the later stages. There are individual differences in the rate at which children progress through stages.Piaget did not claim that a particular stage was reached at a certain age - although descriptions of the stages often include an indication of the age at which the average child would reach each stage.

Piaget (1952) believed that these stages are universal - i.e. that the same sequence of development occurs in children all over the world, whatever their culture.


Stages of DevelopmentINTEREST: how children learnt and in how they thought

RESEARCH METHODS:Naturalistic Observation diary descriptions(Jacqueline, Lucienne and Laurent 3 children)Clinical Interviews and Observations old children


Sensorimotor StagePiaget(1954, 1964)

From Birth to approx 2 yrs rapid cognitive growthTrial and Error builds up knowledge of the worldExtreme egocentrism

Main Development: Object Permanence or Object Concept (understanding that objects exist and events occur in the world independently of one's own actions)

Sensorimotor Stage - SubstagesSubstagePeriodResponseExampleReflex Acts1st month of liferesponds to external stimulation with innate reflex actionsIf you brush a babys mouth or cheek with your finger it will suck reflexivelyPrimary Circular Reactions1-4 months oldbaby will repeat pleasurable actions centred on its own bodyThe babies will wiggle their fingers, kick their legs and suck their thumbsSecondary Circular Reactions4-8 monthsbabies repeat pleasurable actions that involve objects as well as actions involving their own bodiesAn infant who shakes the rattle for the pleasure of hearing the sound that it produces

Sensorimotor Stage - SubstagesSubstagePeriodResponseExampleCo-ordinating Secondary Schemes8-12 monthsbabies now show signs of an ability to use their acquired knowledge to reach a goalAn infant will not just shake the rattle but will reach out and knock to one side an object that stands in the way of it getting hold of the rattleTertiary Circular ReactionsThe infant who once explored an object by taking it apart now tries to put it back togetherThe baby stacks the bricks it took out of its wooden truck back again or it puts back the nesting cups one inside the other.Symbolic ThoughtBabies can now form mental representations of objectsThis means that they have developed the ability to visualise things that are not physically present.


Blanket and Ball Study

Aim: Piaget (1963) wanted to investigate at what age children acquire object permanence.

Method: Piaget hid a toy under a blanket, while the child was watching, and observed whether or not the child searched for the hidden toy. Searching for the hidden toy was evidence of object permanence.

Piaget assumed that the child could only search for a hidden toy if s/he had a mental representation of it.

Blanket and Ball Study

Results: Piaget found that infants searched for the hidden toy when they were around 8-months-old.Conclusion: Children around 8 months have object permanence because they are able to form a mental representation of the object in their minds.I FOUND IT!!!

Preoperational StagePiaget(1951, 1952)From about 2 7 - child cannot use logic or transform, combine or separate ideasBuilding experiences about the world through adaptation and working towards the (concrete) stage when it can use logical thought

Main Development: Semiotic function and Symbolic Play(children can mentally represent events and objects and engage in symbolic play)

Preoperational Stage Key Features

The Three Mountain TaskAim: Piaget and Inhelder (1956) wanted to find out at what age children decenter - i.e. become no longer egocentricMethod:The child sits at a table, presented in front are three mountains. The mountains were different, with snow on top of one, a hut on another and a red cross on top of the other.The child was allowed to walk round the model, to look at it, then sit down at one side. A doll is then placed at various positions of the table.The child is then shown 10 photographs of the mountains taken from different positions, and asked to indicate which showed the dolls view.Piaget assumed that if the child correctly picked out the card showing the doll's view, s/he was not egocentric. Egocentrism would be shown by the child who picked out the card showing the view s/he saw.

Findings- Four-year-olds always chose a picture which matched their own view, while six-year-olds showed some awareness of alternative perspectives.

Only seven- and eight-year-olds consistently chose the correct pictureConclusion: At age 7, thinking is no longer egocentric as the child can see more than their own point of viewThe Three Mountain Task

1) Understanding of these situations is 'perception bound'. Child is drawn by changes in the appearance of the materials to conclude that a change has occurred.

2) Thinking is 'centered' on one aspect of the situation. Child notices change in level of water or in length of clay without noticing that other aspects of the situation have changed simultaneously.3) Thinking is focused on states rather than on transformations. Child fails to track what has happened to the materials and simply makes an intuitive judgment based on how they appear 'now'.

4) Thinking is 'irreversible' in that the child cannot appreciate that a reverse transformation would return the material to it's original state. The Three Mountain Task - Conclusions

Concrete Operational StagePiaget(1954a)Typically ages 7 - 11 - child is mature enough to use logical thoughts or operations but can only apply logic to physical objects

Main Development: Abilities of Conservation(thinking is more organized & rational; can solve in a logical fashion but are typically not able to think abstractly or hypothetically)

Concrete Operational Stage Concrete Operations

ConservationAround 7, majority of children can conserve liquidConservation of Number

Piaget (1954b) set out a row of counters in front of the child and asked her/him to make another row the same as the first one.

Piaget spread out his row of counters and asked the child if there were still the same number of counters.


Most children aged seven could answer this correctly, and Piaget concluded that this showed that by seven years of age children were able to conserve number.

Formal Operational StageInhelder & Piaget(1958)Begins at about 11 - ability to think in an abstract manner, to combine and classify items in a more sophisticated way, and the capacity for higher-order reasoning

Main Development: Ex: Inferential Reasoning(ability to think about things which the child has not actually experienced and to draw conclusions from its thinking)

Third-Eye Problem (Piaget, 1970) Children were asked where they would put an extra eye, if they were able to have a third one, and why.

11-year-olds were more inventive, for example suggesting that a third eye placed on the hand would be useful for seeing round corners.

Schaffer (1988) reported that when asked this question, 9-year-olds all suggested that the third eye should be on the forehead.

Cognitive Development: Applications** Materials have been adapted from: Woolfolk & McCune-Nicolich. (1984).Educational psychology for teachers. (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.How to use Piagetian theory in teaching/learning process?

REFERENCES:Atherton J S (2013) Learning and Teaching; Piaget's developmental theory [On-line: UK]retrieved 2 July 2015 from

Atherton J S (2013) Learning and Teaching; Assimilation and Accommodation [On-line: UK] retrieved 3 July 2015 from

REFERENCES:Huitt, W., & Hummel, J. (2003). Piaget's theory of cognitive development.Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [July 3, 2015] from

McLeod, S. A.(2009). Jean Piaget. Retrieved from


McLeod, S. A.(2015). Sensorimotor Stage. Retrieved from

McLeod, S. A.(2015). Preoperational Stage. Retrieved from

McLeod, S. A.(2015). Concrete Operational Stage. Retrieved from


Prepared byESPINOSA, Crismarie G.LIBINTING, Diana Marie K.