Summary of Piaget’s Theories Essay

The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896–1980) had a superior impact in cognitive development study. He suggested that everybody goes through a series of universal stages of cognitive development in a specific sequence, focusing his attention on the cognitive change occurring when children move from one stage to the next. According Piaget, the information quantity as well as the quality of knowledge, changes among those stages (Feldman, 2008).

Piaget’s learning theory of cognitive development covers the following four stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational (JeongChul, Sumi, Koch & Aydin, 2011). The first stage, sensorimotor, covers from the day of birth to the second year of child’s life. He established that infants learn of their environments through sensation and movement. Likewise, they begin to develop reflexes, habits, and hand-eye coordination. Other characteristics shown in this stage are experimentation, creativity, trial and error experiments, and object performance.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

This specific stage is divided into the following six substages: Simple reflexes, First habits and primary circular reactions, Secondary circular reactions, Coordination of secondary circular reactions, Tertiary circular reactions, and Beginnings of thought. Although Piaget contended that the order of substages does not change among children, he admitted that the timing in when appear could and will vary in some grade (Feldman, 2008). Preoperational is Piaget’s second stage of cognitive development and it lasts from the second to the seventh years of the child.

Young children in this stage develop language skills, the use of symbols to represent ideas and objects with images and words, and imagination. They learn through imitation and play during this stage. They begin to use reasoning; however, it is mainly intuitive instead of logical. Another characteristic of preoperational children’s thinking is their inability to reason about transformations in a successful way (Feldman, 2008). The third stage is Concrete Operational. Elementary school children and early adolescents begin understanding abstract concepts, such as numbers and relationships, but require concrete examples to do so.

In this stage the children have from seven to 11 years old. During this stage, they also develop the fundamentals of logic, and understanding of conservation. This stage “can be viewed as a transition between pre-logical thought and complete logical thought of older children who have attained formal operations stage” (JeongChul, et al. , 2011, p. 734). Piaget’s last stage of cognitive development, Formal Operation, begins approximately at 11 years old. Adolescents and adults gain the capacity for hypothetical and deductive reasoning, no longer needing for concrete examples to understand abstract concepts.

Now, they develop the ability of hypothesis and also begin to think in a formal systematic way (JeongChul, et al. , 2011, p. 734-735). In the comparison of the cognitive and behavioral theoretical perspectives, two of the eight that have guided the development of life, they will differ significantly in its principles. In the cognitive perspective, described above, Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development emphasize in how any change or growth in the way people know, understand, and think about the world may affect their behavior. On the behavioral perspective, John B.

Watson (1878–1958), in its classical conditioning learning, suggested a person responds automatically in a particular manner due to an external stimulus that normally does not produce such a response as part of his or her learning process. This occurs because of the important factors and stimuli that surround randomly the environment of the individual. Moreover, Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936), stated in this regard that a conditioned response is created through successive pairings of a conditioned stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus (Feldman, 2008). The discrepancy among Piaget and behavioral theories is evident.

While the first one classifies the human cognitive development through four universal stages, the other one states that the learning process is conditioned to the variation of stimuli surrounding the individual.


Feldman, R. S. (2008). An Introduction to Life Span Development. In Development Across the Life Span. Prentice Hall. JeongChul, H. , Sumi, H. , Koch, C. , ; Aydin, H. (2011). Piaget’s Egocentrism and Language Learning: Language Egocentrism (LE) and Language Differentiation (LD). Journal Of Language Teaching & Research, 2(4), 733-739. doi:10. 4304/jltr. 2. 4. 733-739