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Piaget Theories

Piaget Theories

Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist instrumental in the creation of theories regarding the development of children. College course work in education will undoubtedly include the study of many of Piaget's theories. Prepare yourself and learn how to write a research paper on Jean Piaget's theories from Paper Masters. We will show you how to develop a sound research paper on this website or our professional writers can write you a custom research paper according to your personal specifications.

Working at the Binet Institute during the 1920s, Piaget became the first scientist to undertake an extensive study of cognitive development. Almost concurrent with Erikson's psychosocial theories of development were Jean Piaget's stages of cognitive development theory. Although Piaget's work was first published in the 1920s, it was not until the 1960s, when Piaget's works were translated into English that they began to have an impact on modern psychology. As such, even though Piaget formulated his ideas much earlier than Erik Erikson, his work did not come to prominence until interest in developmental psychology began to grow.

Reviewing the basic ideologies of Piaget's theory, you will want to note that Piaget's theories were predicated upon the central idea that cognitive development was the principle means for development in the child. While stages of development occurred at specific ages, in most cases the process of cognitive development was not linear. Instead, children exhibited spurts of cognitive growth that could be correlated with enhanced cognitive ability. According the Piaget, there were four stages of cognitive development, which accurately described the cognitive processes of all adults. The development stages of this theory include:

  1. Birth to 2 sensori-motor stage
  2. 2-7 years, preoperational stage
  3. 7-11 years of age, concrete operational stage
  4. 11 years and up, formal operational stage

In each stage of development the child is capable of understanding some ideas but not others. Completion of development occurs when the formal operational stage is achieved in which the child can think in abstract terms and test various hypotheses in a logical manner.

Four Stages of Human Development

Piaget came to define himself as a genetic epistemologist, believing that cognitive structures were completely different from other biological systems and could explain human knowledge through the study of a child's growth. In the course of his research, Piaget developed his classic theory of the four stages of human development.


The first stage, Sensorimotor, occurs between birth and the age of two, during which time the infant receives everything through the five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell). Piaget then divided this theory's stage into six subdivisions through which sensory input is eventually internalize what has been learned through the senses.


The second stage, preoperational, occupies human development between the ages of two and seven. During this stage, motor skills are refined, but fantastical thinking still occurs, such as a belief in magic. The third stage, concrete operations, takes place through the age of eleven, during which time the child begins logical thinking, but is unable to break out of structured rigidity. Moving from the preconceptual period into the perceptual period the manner by which the child beings to solve problems changes dramatically: "Thought, problem-solving depends on intuitive thought and appearances, and not on judgment or reasoning". This type of thinking, known as transduction, is a basic form of logic that enables the child to reason from one object to another without any logical basis. It is during this phase that children are most apt to interject with their point of view. Because they are still egocentric and believe that those in their surroundings think and feel as they do, variations in adult behavior often confuse them. Since children at this stage make associations that are not logically based, they are further confused that adults cannot see their point of view. As a result children will often loudly assert their position on a particular subject.


Transductive thinking is perhaps the most significant development in this time period. Not only does it shape the manner by which children play, but it also impacts a child's language development and a child's imagination. For instance when playing with puzzles of both a teddy bear and an ice cream cone, the child may attempt to put the ice cream parts in the bear's puzzle. Adults may finds this confusing; however for the child, he simply reasons that the bear may like some ice cream and therefore should put ice cream and bear parts together. While this type of thinking is a precursor to more logical though this period is often difficult for parents because they cannot help the child to understand that the puzzle pieces do not fit together. Therefore when the child becomes frustrated, the parent can do little more than calm him down. This also demonstrates another aspects of the perceptual phase: the inability for children to see another's point of view.

The rapid mental growth that occurs during this period is essential for the child to develop logical thinking. Although this period is often difficult to understand from the child's point of view-as their thought processes have no logical base-parents must make an attempt to understand the importance of this stage and its role in the development of intelligence.


The final stage of Piaget's theory is the formal operational stage, at which time a person develops abstract thought. This fourth and final of Piaget's stages is the formal operational stage, beginning at twelve years of age and continuing throughout adult life. During this stage, the individual achieves the ability to think hypothetically, but the limitation of egocentrism continues to persist.

The Influence of Piaget's Theories

Piaget's theories have greatly impacted and influenced the researchers and academics that would follow in his footsteps, and there is no doubt that his work made an indelible mark on the field of cognitive development. By way of comparison, Vygotsky's theories regarding cognitive development were very different and yet in some ways complementary to those of Piaget. Whereas Piaget devised stages in his efforts to explain the process of psychological maturation, Vygotsky focused on how social interaction greatly contributes to the child's adaptation to the environment and resulting cognitive development. Vygotsky maintained that humans achieve adaptation to the world around them through the use of social cooperation, so that social relationships determine and shape psychological growth

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