Jean Piaget was born on August 9, 1896, in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. His parents were Rebecca Jackson and Arthur Piaget. Piaget married Valentine Châtenay and they had three children together. At age ten, Piaget had a fascination for Mollusks. By the time he was in his teens, his papers on mollusks were being widely published. People who read Piaget’s papers about mollusks had no idea of his age; they assumed the papers were written by an expert (Jean Piaget Biography, 2014). After high school, Piaget got his Ph.D. in zoology at the University of Neuchâtel in 1918. Also, in 1918, Piaget studied psychology under Carl Jung where he developed an interest in psychoanalysis at the university of Zürich. In 1920, Piaget worked with Théodore Simon and Alfred Binet on standardized testing for children. He participated by evaluating the results of the children’s reasoning on the intelligence tests. While evaluating the tests, he developed an interest on how children learn and why they made errors on the tests. He decided to let the children explain why they put their answers. From the tests, he realized that children think differently than adults. This was the start of Piaget’s Psychology career. After reviewing the answers on the children’s tests, he came up with four different stages to describe children’s mental development. The four stages are sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage, and the formal operational stage. These stages describe what type of developments occur and what ages they pertain to. Through observing his own three children and other children, Piaget thought of schemas, assimilation, and accommodation to describe the ways that children store knowledge through their experiences and interactions. Piaget thought of himself as a genetic epistemologist. Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that deals with human knowledge (Cherry, 2019). Jean Piaget died on September 16, 1980 in Geneva, Switzerland of unknown causes at the age of eighty-four. Today, Piaget’s theories continue to be used in schools in areas of genetics, education, sociology, and psychology.
Jean Piaget first developed an interest in children while he was administering intelligence test for children. He was interested in children’s logical reasoning for their incorrect answers on their tests. After seeing their answers, he concluded that children think differently than adults. This led to Piaget’s cognitive development theory, which explains how the child develops into an individual who can think and reason on their own. Piaget came up with three components, assimilation, accommodation, and equilibrium, and four stages, sensorimotor stage, the preoperational stage, the concrete operational stage, and the formal operational to explain his cognitive development theory in detail.
Schemas are a way of organizing knowledge that allows a child to have a mental representation of their world. For example, schemas are like blocks, each block relating to a different area of the world. Piaget believed that babies have some innate schemas programmed into them. For example, when an object touches a baby’s lips, they will suck on that object because of their innate sucking reflex. Another example is the grasping schema, where the baby will grasp anything that touches the palm of their hand. Piaget viewed intelligence growth with three steps through a process called adaptation.
The first component is assimilation where the child uses their existing schemas to deal with new situations. For example, a child learns a new word. The next Component is accommodation. This is where the child’s schema needs to be changed because the existing schema does not work. For example, the child had to apologize to their sibling because they used the new word that they had learned to offend their sibling. The last component step is called Equilibration, where the child restores balance with their new mastered challenges. A state of disequilibrium is when the child cannot fit information into their existing schemas. Jean Piaget came up with four different stages to show what happens within each stage of the child’s development. The Sensorimotor stage, the preoperational stage, the concrete operational stage, and the formal operational stage.
The first stage is the Sensorimotor stage. In this stage, the children are between the ages from birth to age two. From when the child is born to about one month, the child learns that they have reflexes but only focus on sucking. From one month to about four months, the child learns how to put these reflexes to use, such as sucking their thumb. From four to about eight months, the child learns that their actions influence the environment; the child will purposely act in a certain way to get the desired result. From eight to about twelve months, the child notices the behaviors around them in their environment and starts to imitate the behaviors. From twelve months to about eighteen months, when the child gets tired of imitating other behaviors, the child starts to explore new behaviors on their own. From eighteen months to about two years, the child will start to notice and recognize symbols that represents objects. In the Sensorimotor stage, the child has a goal to obtain object permanence. Object permanence is knowing that an object is still there even if it is hidden. Everything the child learns is from trial and error and experience.
The second stage is the preoperational stage. In this stage, the child is between two to seven years and the child can describe people, their feelings, and their environment around them. The child uses objects to represent something else in pretend play. For example, a teddy bear, a barbie doll, and a stuffed turtle can represent people at the child’s tea party. The goal is for the child to be able to think using symbols to make an object stand for something other than what the object is. Although the child can think symbolically, they are still egocentric thinkers and still do not understand the viewpoints of other people. They also believe that whatever they believe or see, other people believe and see the same thing. The child cannot comprehend that other people
think differently than they do and that there are different ways of looking at the world. In the preoperational stage, the child is developing memory, language, and relying on their imagination.
The third stage is the concrete operational stage when the child is between the ages seven to eleven years. The child learns to engage in conversation, but still has some difficulty understanding hypothetical or abstract questions. According to Piaget, this stage is the turning point for the child because the child starts to think logically (McLeod, 2018). The child starts to differentiate between facts and fantasies. Also, this stage is where the child is becoming less egocentric. In the concrete operational stage, the goal is for the child to make their own assumptions. This is referred to as operational thought. The child learns how to solve problems without confronting the real world.
The fourth and final stage is the formal operational stage, the child is between the ages of twelve to adulthood. In this stage, the child is now putting abstract, logical, and formal thinking to make sense of their environment. The child can also think inductively and deductively, and they can use their previous knowledge and symbols to form a hypothesis. The child learns how to use their knowledge to figure out a way to solve problem in the real world. The goal is for the child to be able to use symbols to understand abstract concepts. Piaget described this stage as thinking similarly to an adult. Not all children can reach the formal operational stage (Psychology notes, 2017).
Jean Piaget came up with the cognitive development theory in children to explain that children think differently than adults. He came up with the four stages to explain what happens in each stage and what the desired goal was in each stage. These stages helped people learn how a child thinks and what to observe and expect in the child’s cognitive growth and development. Jean Piaget was the first person to study cognitive thought in children. Jean Piaget was also the first person to come up with a cognitive development theory to better understand children. Jean Paget’s theories are still used in schools today.
Biography.com editors. (2014, April 02). Jean Piaget Biography. Retrieved from https:// www.biography.com/scientist/jean-piaget
Cherry, K. (2019, March 09). Jean Piaget Biography (1896-1980). Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/jean-piaget-biography- 1896-1980-2795549
McLeod, S. A. (2018, June 06). Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html
Psychology Notes HQ. (2017, April 10). Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development: A Closer Look. Retrieved from https://www.psychologynoteshq.com/piaget-stages/
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