Piaget's Four Stages of Cognitive Development


One of Piaget’s theories of the cognitive development of a child received the name ‘operational’.


 Operation is an internal action, the product of the transformation of an external objective action, which is coordinated with other activities into a single system. Its main feature is reversibility. Piaget identified the following four stages of development of the operational intelligence in children:

1. The stage of sensorimotor intelligence covers the period of life from birth to 2 years. It is characterized by development of the ability to perceive and learn objects in their resistant properties and attributes.

2. Stage of preoperational thought includes the development of thinking of the children aged from 2 to 7 years. In this stage, speech develops; an active process of internalization of external actions with objects begins; visual representations are formed.

3. The stage of concrete operations with objects is typical for children from 7-8 to 11-12 years. In this stage, mental operations are reversible. A child is able to think logically about objects and events, and to comprehend conservation of quantity at the age of 6, volume at the age of 7, and weight at the age of 9. The children in this stage are also able to classify objects on several grounds, and to arrange them in rows based on one parameter.

4. The stage of formal operations is reached by children in middle age: from 11-12 to 14-15 years. This stage is characterized by the child's ability to perform the operation in his/her mind, using logical reasoning and concepts. Internal mental operations are converted into a structured unit. This stage is characterized by an interest in hypothetical and ideological challenges to the future.

According to this periodization, the youngest child (Charlie), who is 2 years old, is on the stage of sensory-motor intelligence. Penelope, who is 6 years old, is on the stage of preoperational thought. 9-year-old Isabelle is on the stage of concrete operations with objects. Brian, who is 11 years old, is on the stage of formal operations.

During preparation of the cookies, Charlie will acknowledge himself as the bearer of action and begin to act arbitrarily. He will not be able to understand the consequences of his actions. Thus, he will just play with the flour. During this period, children are busy discovering the connection between their own actions and the consequences of these actions. For example, they learn what happens if they push a plate of food over the edge. However, he can help in opening, closing and pulling necessary things.

The main feature of the preoperational stage is a child's inability to focus the attention on more than one aspect of the situation at the same time. Penelope will not be able to measure the needed ingredients for cookies, but is able to assist in pouring flour or water into the bowl. Only the third stage is characterized by the ability to posses for a single indication, such as height or weight. Figurative representation in this period does not have the coordination that would enable arbitrarily regulation of the flow of ideas.

Isabelle’s development is characterized by formed mental picture of the sequence of actions. In the stage of concrete operations, a child enjoys cooking process. Isabella possesses the concept of ‘conservation’ that is involved in the baking measurements. A child is able to use different forms of measuring utensils to assist in cooking. Moreover, Isabella can classify ingredients into categories (e.g. wet and dry). Children at this age like to help in the kitchen, especially in baking cookies, as it is a great opportunity to learn new skills.

At the stage of formal operations, a child comes to the form of adult thinking. Thus, Brian can analyze used ingredients and steps. He is able to consider certain variables that can cause burning cookies, such as an improver temperature, time of baking, omitting key ingredient. From 11 - 13 years, formal operational schemes that provide the organization operating on specific groups appear. There is a possibility of theorizing, which is relatively free in relation to the real world.

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Richard Bennett

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