Jean Piaget & Cognitive Development

By: MacLean B, Meryl X, Rohith C, Rafay A and Mackenzie D

Early Life

Jean Piaget was born in Neuchatel Switzerland August 9, 1896. He was the son of Arthur Piaget a professor of medieval history at the university of Neuchatel, where he would later attend. He later moved from Switzerland to Paris where in 1923 he married Valentine Chatenay, with whom he had three kids. Piaget studied his children from infancy.


1918, before Piaget became a psychologist he studied philosophy and natural history. He published two philosophical papers on social perceptions which were never successes and not widely excepted, even after he became highly recognized as a psychologist. Jean's most noted work was his theory of cognitive development.

Theory of Cognitive Development

Sensorimotor Stage: from birth to age two. Children experience the world through movement and five senses. Divided into six sub stages.

1. Simple Reflexes (birth - 1 month)

2. First habits and primary circular reactions (1 month - 4months).

3. Secondary circular reactions (4 months - 8 months).

4. Coordination of secondary circular reactions (8 months - 1 year).

5. Tertiary circular reactions, novelty, and curiousity (1 year - 18 months).

6. Internalization of schemata (18 months - 2 years).

  • Young infants lack object permanence (the awareness that objects continue to exist when not perceived). By 8 months, infants show awareness.
  • Babies have a grasp on the basics of physics and numbers

Preoperational Stage: from age 2 to 6 or 7. Children learns to use language but does not yet understand the mental operations of concrete logic.

1. Symbolic Function Substage (Early Representational Thought): (2 years - 4 years) children use symbols to represent physical models of the world around them.

2. Intuitive Thought Substage: (4 years - 7 years) children become very curious and ask many questions.

  • Lacks concept of conservation (change in shape doesn't mean change in quantity)
  • Are egocentric and have difficulty perceiving things from another's point of view
  • Begin forming theory of mind, infer other's mental states and feelings
  • Understands that thoughts can cause feelings; and spontaneous self-produced thoughts can cause feelings
  • Increasingly able to think in words and use words to solve problems; no thinking out loud, internal thinking

Concrete Operational Stage: from age 6 or 7 to 12. Children gain the mental operations that enable them to think logically about concrete events.

  • Think logically about concrete events
  • Begin to grasp conservation
  • Comprehend mathematical transformations and operations

Formal Operational Stage: from age 12 to adulthood. People begin to think logically about abstract concepts.

  • Reasoning expands from concrete (involving actual experience) to abstract (involving imagined realities and symbols)
  • Are capable of solving hypothetical propositions and deducing consequences (systematic reasoning)
  • Basics of formal operational thinking begin earlier than adolescence
  • Potential for mature moral reasoning