Jean Piaget

Employed to develop french versions of
questions on english intelligence tests
Became intrigued with the reasons children
gave for wrong answers. He believed wrong
answers revealed important differences
between the thinking of adults and children.
1st psychologist to make a systematic study
of cognitive development
Before piaget’s work, the common
assumption was that children were merely
less competent thinkers than adults.
Piaget showed that young children think in
very different ways compared to adults.
According to Piaget children are born with a
very basic mental structure
It is concerned with children, rather than all
It focuses on development, rather than
learning per se, so it does not address
learning information of specific behaviours
It proposes discrete stages of development,
marked by qualitative differences, rather
than gradual increase in number and
complexity of behaviours, concepts, and
1) Schemas: ( building blocks of knowledge)
▪ A way of organizing knowledge. Think
▪ Think of them as units of knowledge each relating to one
aspect of the world
▪ When a child’s existing schemas are capable of explaining
what it can perceive around it, it is said to be in a state of
▪ 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.
▪ For example, a person might have schema about buying a
meal in a restaurant. The schema is a stored form of the
pattern of behaviour which includes looking at a menu,
ordering food, eating it and paying the bill.
Whenever they are in a restaurant, they
retrieve this schema from memory and apply
it to the situation.
As a child gets older their schemas become
more numerous and elaborate.
Believed that newborns have some innnate
schemas ( innate reflexes) sucking reflex
Assimilation: which is using an existing
schema to deal with a new object or situation
Accommodation: this happens when the
existing schema ( knowledge) does not work,
and needs to be changed to deal with a new
object or situation
A 2 year old child sees a man who is bald on
top of his head and has long frizzy hair on the
sides. To the father’s horror, the toddler
shouts “ clown, clown”
In the clown incident, the boy’s father
explained to his son that the man was not a
clown and that even though his hair was like a
clown’s, he wasn’t wearing a funny costume
and wasn’t doing silly things to make people
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
A child’s cognitive development is about a child
developing or constructing a mental model of
the world.
Believed children go through 4 universal stages
of cognitive development.
Development is therefore biologically based and
changes as the child matures.
Cognition therefore develops in all children in
the same sequence of stages.
Each child goes through the stages in the same
order, and no stage can be missed out
One of most important accomplishments
A child’s understanding that objects continue
to exist even though they cannot be seen or
Peek a boo
Blanket and ball study
0-2 years old
Centred on the infant rying to make sense of
the world.
Knowledge limited to his or her sensory
perceptions and motor activities
Behaviours are limited to simple motor
responses caused by sensory stimuli
Use skills they were born with like looking,
sucking, grasping and listening to learn more
about environment
2-7 years old
Language development is one of the
landmarks here
Unable to take the point of view of others
Become increasingly adept at using symbols,
as evidenced by the increase in playing and
Pretending a broom is a horse, role playing (
mommy or daddy)
Three mountain task
Children asked to choose a picture that showed the
scene they had observed. Most children are able to do
this with little difficulty.
 Next, children are asked to select a picture showing
what someone else would have observed when
looking at the mountain from a different viewpoint
 Children almost always choose the scene showing
their own view of the mountain scene.
 According to Piaget, children experience this difficulty
because they are unable to take on another person’s
Equal amounts of liquid are poured into 2
identical containers. The liquid in one
container is then poured into a different
shaped cup, such as a tall and thin cup or a
short and wide up. Children are then asked
which cup holds the most liquid
Despite seeing that the liquid amounts were
equal, children almost always choos the cup
that appears fuller
7-11 years old
Gain a better understanding of mental
Begin thinking logically about concrete
events, but have difficulty understanding
abstract or hypothetical concepts
Awareness that actions can be reversed
Develop ability to think about abstract
Skills such as logical though, deductive
reasoning, and systematic planning
Abstract thought and problem solving

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