Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

Piaget believed that the schemas or cognitive structures exist in primitive form at conception and progressively develop during the life time in

Jean Piaget's Theory of Development

He is a Gestalt psychologist and his theory is related to cognitive development. He has studied development process of understanding functioning of the child's mind. He could not produce a definite structure for educational practices but it has great value to measure teaching.

Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

Piaget believed that the schemas or cognitive structures exist in primitive form at conception and progressively develop during the life time in certain systematic way with the help of certain operations. According to Piaget, Schemas or conditions involve all the necessary energy and potentialities for their emergence and development without requiring some motivating force. He has enumerated four stages of operations in his process of development.

The first stage in known the sensorimotor period when the infant learns and develops sensorimotor skills by manipulating objects in his environment. In the second stage which runs from two to seven years, the child begins to acquire vocabulary with which he represents objects and experiences he perceives. The child can extract concepts from experience and can manipulate objects in his mind. This stage is called pre-operational thought. The third stages is called concrete operation period which begins from seven and continues up to twelve years of age. The child begins to think logically and rationally about problems which he faces. The fourth stage is known as formal operations period and begins from twelve years of age and continues till the end of adolescence. The adolescent can think, reason and analyse beyond the realm of concrete experiences. He can generalize or form opinion about abstract concepts like love, honour, truth and justice, etc.

According to Piaget, The child moves from one stage to the next in an established pattern. The rate of development may vary in different individuals and cultures but the sequence of development is universal. The schemas change from one stage to another by the process of equilibration. The process of assimilation and accommodation maintain balance between him and his changing environment. The following are the stages of cognitive development:

  1. The period of sensorimotor adaptation since birth to 2 years.
  2. The development of symbolic and preconceptual thought (2 to 4) years.
  3. The period of intuitive thoughts (4 to 8) years.
  4. The period of concrete operations (8 to 12) years.
  5. The period of formal operations (12 to adolescence).

The period of concrete operations is the stage cognitive development when the child is able to direct his attention. These are the real operations rather than potential. The reality guides his contemplation of possibility. The formal operation is called the controlling aspects of comprehension. The formal thoughts are of prepositional nature of adolescent. These formal operations help in solving problem.

First stage of Piaget Development (The Sensorimotor Stage)

Ages: Birth to 2 Years

Major Characteristics and Developmental Changes:

  1. The infant knows the world through their movements and sensations.
  2. Children learn about the world through basic actions such as sucking, grasping, looking, and listening.
  3. Infants learn that things continue to exist even though they cannot be seen (object permanence).
  4. They are separate beings from the people and objects around them.
  5. They realize that their actions can cause things to happen in the world around them.

During this earliest stage of cognitive development, infants and toddlers acquire knowledge through sensory experiences and manipulating objects. A child's entire experience at the earliest period of this stage occurs through basic reflexes, senses, and motor responses. It is during the sensorimotor stage that children go through a period of dramatic growth and learning, As kids interact with their environment, they are continually making new discoveries about how the world works.

Second stage of Piaget development (The Preoperational Stage)

Ages: 2 to 7 Years

Major Characteristics and Developmental Changes:

  1. Children begin to think symbolically and learn to use words and pictures to represent objects.
  2. Children at this stage tend to be egocentric and struggle to see things from the perspective of others.
  3. While they are getting better with language and thinking, they still tend to think about things in very concrete terms.

The foundations of language development may have been laid during the previous stage, but it is the emergence of language that is one of the major hallmarks of the preoperational stage of development. Children become much more skilled at pretend play during this stage of development, yet continue to think very concretely about the world around them.

At this stage, kids learn through pretend play but still struggle with logic and taking the point of view of other people. They also often struggle with understanding the idea of constancy. For example, a researcher might take a lump of clay, divide it into two equal pieces, and then give a child the choice between two pieces of clay to play with. One piece of clay is rolled into a compact ball while the other is smashed into a flat pancake shape. Since the flat shape looks larger. the preoperational child will likely choose that piece even though the two pieces are exactly the same size.

Third stage of Piaget development (The Concrete Operational Stage)

Ages: 7 to 11 Years

Major Characteristics and Developmental Changes:

  1. During this stage, children begin to thinking logically about concrete events.
  2. They begin to understand the concept of conservation, that the amount of liquid in a short, wide cup is equal to that in a tall, skinny glass.
  3. Their thinking becomes more logical and organized, but still very concrete.
  4. Children begin using inductive logic, or reasoning from specific information to a general principle.

While children are still very concrete and literal in their thinking at this point in development, they become much more adept at using logic. The egocentrism of the previous stage begins to disappear as kids become better at thinking about how other people might view a situation. While thinking becomes much more logical during the concrete operational state, it can also be very rigid. Kids at this point in development tend to struggle with abstract and hypothetical concepts.

During this stage, children also become less egocentric and begin to think about how other people might think and feel. Kids in the concrete operational stage also begin to understand that their thoughts are unique to them and that not everyone else necessarily shares their thoughts, feelings, and opinions.

Fourth stage of Piaget development (The Formal Operational Stage)

Ages: 12 and Up

Major Characteristics and Developmental Changes:

  1. At this stage, the adolescent or young adult begins to think abstractly and reason about hypothetical problems.
  2. Abstract thought emerges.
  3. Teens begin to think more about moral, philosophical, ethical, social, and political issues that require theoretical and abstract reasoning.
  4. Begin to use deductive logic, or reasoning from a general principle to specific information.

The final stage of Piaget's theory involves an increase in logic, the ability to use deductive reasoning, and an understanding of abstract ideas. At this point, people become capable of seeing multiple potential solutions to problems and think more scientifically about the world around them. The ability to thinking about abstract ideas and situations is the key hallmark of the formal operational stage of cognitive development. The ability to systematically plan for the future and reason about hypothetical situations are also critical abilities that emerge during this stage.

It is important to note that Piaget did not view children's intellectual development as a quantitative process; that is, kids do not just add more information and knowledge to their existing knowledge as they get older. Instead, Piaget suggested that there is a qualitative change in how children think as they gradually process through these four stages. A child at age 7 doesn't just have more information about the world than he did at age 2; there is a fundamental change in how he thinks about the world.

Schema of Piaget development

A schema is a cognitive framework or concept that helps organize and interpret information. Schemas can be useful because they allow us to take shortcuts in interpreting the vast amount of information that is available in our environment. However, these mental frameworks also cause us to exclude pertinent information to focus instead only one things that confirm our pre-existing beliefs and ideas. Schemas can contribute to stereotypes and make it difficult to retain new information that does not confirm to our established ideas about the world.


While Piaget focused on childhood development, schemas are something that all people possess and continue to form and change throughout life. Object schemas are just one type of schema that focuses on what an inanimate object is and how it works. For example, most people in industrialized nations have a schema for what a car is. Your overall schema for a car might include sub categories for different types of automobiles such as a compact car, sedan, or sports car, Other types of schemas that people often possess include:

  1. Person schemas are focused on specific individuals. For example, your schema for your friend might include information about her
  2. appearance, her behaviors, her personality, and her preferences.
  3. Social schemas include general knowledge about how people behave in certain social situations.
  4. Self-schemas are focused on your knowledge about yourself. This can include both what you know about your current self as well as ideas about your idealized or future self.
  5. Event schemas are focused on patterns of behavior that should be followed for certain events. This acts much like a script informing you of what you should do, how you should act, and what you should say in a particular situation.

Similarities and Inequalities in the Cognitive Development Theory of Bruner and Piaget

Both Piaget and Bruner have made significant contributions to the field of cognitive development. There are some similarities and dissimilarities in the process of cognitive development of both of them which are as follows:


  1. The student learns on the basis of previous adaptations.
  2. The child naturally has curiosity about language.
  3. Children's cognitive structures develop over time.
  4. Children learn by actively participating in the learning processes.
  5. The final stage of cognitive development extends to the acquisition of symbols/signs/symbols and is given prominence.


S.No. Brunner Piaget
Bruner considers development to be a continuous process. Piaget considers development as a series of different stages.
Brunner considers language development to be an important factor in cognitive development. Piaget considers language development as a consequence of cognitive development.
According to Bruner, the speed of cognitive development can be increased. According to Piaget, cognitive development in children occurs at a self-paced level and maturity.
Bruner attaches importance to the participation of adults and peers with higher knowledge in the learning process. Piaget does not accept this.
According to Bruner, the representations of the previously adopted states of reflective thinking do not change. These change according to Piaget.
Bruner gives more importance to education in his theory. Piaget gives more importance to the environment in his theory.
According to Bruner's theory, there are three stages of development of the child. There are four stages in Piaget's theory.

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