Theory of cognitive development

Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

 A Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget gave us a deep understanding about children’s psychological development by his theory of cognitive development. He did great work on cognitive development which impressed psychology and education. Since the center of 20th century. His theory is universal which gives us a comprehensive framework about various stages of mental growth from infancy to adulthood. He proposed four stages of development which characterized by changes and tells us how the children think on these four distinct stages.

Cognitive development Stages

There are four stages of this theory, according to Jean Piaget. Preoperational stage, concrete operational stage and the last one formal operational stage. Each stage highlights a new way of thinking and understanding about world.

Sensorimotor Stage (From birth to 02 years)

In this stage, learning and interesting with environment by the infant is achieve by using motor abilities and senses. It moves from reflexive instincts to intentional actions. In this stage, the child learns different objects even they cannot see or heard, but the concept of the object’s permanence is developed.


Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development outlines how children’s thinking evolves in distinct stages as they grow. It comprises four key stages: Sensorimotor (birth to 2 years), where infants learn through sensory experiences and manipulating objects; Preoperational (2-7 years), characterized by symbolic thinking and egocentrism, yet lacking logical reasoning; Concrete Operational (7-11 years), where children develop logical thinking about concrete events, understand conservation, and consider perspectives of others; and Formal Operational (12 years and up), marked by abstract, logical, and systematic thinking. Piaget’s theory emphasizes that children construct their understanding of the world through active learning and exploration.

Pre-operational Stage

In this stage, the child learns different symbols and begins to engage in symbolic play. During this stage, symbol is manipulated without the understanding of concrete logic. This stage is also called egocentric because it is marked by egocentrism, where it is difficult for the children to see a situation from another perspective or another person’s point of view.

Children remain conservative in understanding certain properties of object, which remain the same in their form and arrangement despite changes and these are not grasped.

Concrete operational Stage (From 7 Year to 11 Year)

In this stage, the thoughts are developed in logical way. Children think more logically about complexities. But there is a struggle with abstract ideas.

Now they begin to understand the concept of conversation, children learn to categorize different objects and understanding. The notion of time, number and value through their understanding, which is very hands on and concrete.

Formal operational Stage (From 12 years to up)

In this formal operational stage, individuals get ability of thinking about abstract ideas. Now they can process logical thought, systematic planning and deductive reasoning in the best possible.

In this stage, adolescents and adults are able to think and can form suggestion and ponder about different opportunities. In formal operational stage which Individuals can also think about the world more scientifically which is around them.

Piaget’s observations and experiments

Piaget did several experiments for the confirmation of his theories. For example, he concluded experiment on conversation tasks, where children would be shown two identical glasses of water and when the water of one glass was poured into a thinner but taller glass.

The children preoperational stage would think that more water is in taller glass which demonstrate their inability to understand conservation. In contrast to it, the children who are in concrete operational stage would understand that the amount of water is same and had not changed.

Contributions and criticism

Piaget’s theory was criticized despite of much influence. Some intellectuals were in opinion that this theory has shortcoming they argue that cognitive development is not as rigid as Piaget told and that children can reach cognitive milestone earlier than he suggested.

Modern studies tell us that culture and education can influence cognitive development significantly which Piaget’s theory could not suggest. Piaget’s theory is very important tool for parents and teachers.

It’s a blueprint which tells us about the understanding of the children, that how they perceive the world and how they can process new information at different stages of life. It is also helpful for adults in Presenting information which is accessible for children in the development of various Stages of life.

Pros and cons of the theory of cognitive development


Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is basic and foundational in education and developmental Psychology. It explores the sequential nature of cognitive development and presents the qualitative difference of thinking and understanding in different stages of life.

Piaget’s stages are value able references for understanding human cognition process. Piaget’s work is a keystone for psychological researches and educational practices

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Sensorimotor 0-02years

Pre operational 02 -07 years

Concrete operational 07-11 years

Formal operational 11 + years

It is very significant because it focuses on adapting teaching methods and following adjusting educational strategies which match to the child ‘s level of learning.

It focuses on qualitative changes rather than quantitative growth only. Its emphasis on child experience and understanding.

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