Jean Piaget
Stages of Child Cognitive
Piaget’s Background
• Piaget saw children as “budding scientists”
• Originally worked on standardization of IQ test
– He was intrigued by the children’s incorrect
• Identified stages of thinking that children go
through as they develop
An important part of our
thinking involves:
• Schemas = concepts or “mental molds” into
which we pour our experiences
• Assimilation = taking in new information
and plugging it into our existing schemas
• Accommodation = adjusting / modifying our
schemas to fit the details of our new
What is your schema of a cat?
• Small and furry
• Short pointy ears
• Long tail
• Cute and cuddly
What other information might you
assimilate into your schema?
• Claws
• “meow”
• Purr
If you saw these animals and were told
that they are also cats, how would you
modify your schema to accommodate the
new experience?
Because of schemas, assimilation, and
accommodation, you have developed
clear categories or concepts.
Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive
• Birth – 2 years
• Behavioral Characteristics:
Lack of language
Separation anxiety
Exploration of the environment
Coordinating senses with motor activity
Object permanence NOT apparent
until later in this stage
• Language as the primary means of
communication marks the end of this stage
Separation Anxiety
Object Permanence
• 2-7 years
• Behavioral Characteristics:
– Object permanence fully developed
– Lack of conservation skills
– “magical” thinking
Lack of conservation skills
How old are children in the preoperational
How might you demonstrate a lack of
conservation using volume?
What does it mean that preoperational
children are “seduced by appearances”?
Egocentrism – Thinking Centered on Self
Sample Question
Typical Answer
Why does it get dark at
So I can go to sleep.
Why is the grass green?
Because that’s my favorite color.
Why is there snow?
For me to play in.
Why does the sun shine?
To keep me warm.
With a Partner
Give an example of egocentrism in
preoperational children. Then share with your
partner a time when you recently experienced
Egocentrism yourself.
Animism – Attributing Life to
Inanimate Objects
Sample Question
Typical Answer
Why do trees have leaves?
To keep them warm.
Why do stars twinkle?
Because they are happy.
Where do boats go at night?
They sleep like we do.
Why does the sun move in the To follow children and hear
what they say.
Artificialism – Assuming that natural events
have been fashioned by people
Sample Question
What makes it rain?
Why is the sky blue?
What causes thunder?
Typical Answer
Someone turned the water
hose on.
My mommy painted it that
The angels are bowling.
• 7-11 years
• Behavioral Characteristics:
– Conservation skills
– Reversibility
– Decentering
– Hands-on activities
necessary for thinking
Concrete Reversibility
Examples of Hands-On Activities
• 11 years and over
• Behavioral Characteristics
– Mental trial and error
– Hypothetical analysis
– Logical Thinking
– Use of abstract reasoning
Deductive Reasoning
What stage are each of the children in?
What were the reasons they gave for their
What are the criticisms of Piaget?
• Some people never reach the formal
operation stage of thinking
• People reach these stages at different ages
• Some scientists give children more credit for
their ability to think than Piaget did
Most scientists agree that Piaget’s work is still
worthy of studying.
The End
Piaget’s Cog. Theory Project
• Directions:
• Divide your poster paper into 4 sections
• Each section should have a label; Sensorimotor stage,
preoperational stage, Concrete operational stage and
Formal operational stage.
• Create a drawing in each section that depicts a child
representing that developmental stage.
• Use your book and notes to help you.
• Be creative: use markers, crayons and colored pencils.
• We will present these posters in class, so be ready to
explain your drawings and how they represent each stage.
• Each member in your group must participate for full credit.
• Total possible marks 25 (5 for each stage and 5 for overall)

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