• Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was one of the 20th century’s most influential
researchers in the area of developmental psychology.
• He originally trained in the areas of biology and philosophy and
considered himself a “genetic epistemologist.” (genetic= development,
epistemology = study of knowledge)
• Piaget wanted to know how children learned through their
development in the study of knowledge.
• Piaget’s theory is based on the idea that the developing child builds
cognitive structures (schemes used to understand and respond to
• He believed the child’s cognitive structure increased with development.
• based on his observations of his own three children.
3. • Born: August 9, 1896 Neuchâtel, Switzerland
• Died: Sept. 16, 1980 ( Age 84) Geneva,
• Education: Received Ph.D., from University of
Neuchatel in 1918.
• Wife: Married to Valentine Chatenay in 1923
• Children: 3 children namely Jacqueline,
Lucienne and Laurent whose intellectual
development from infancy to language was
studied by Piaget.
Jean Piaget (1896-1980): History
4. o The term cognition is derived from
the Latin word “cognoscere” which
means “to know” or “to recognise”
or “to conceptualise”.
o It refers to the mental processes an
organism learns, remembers,
understands, perceives, solves
problems and thinks about a body
What is Cognition?
• an internal representation of the world.
• A schema describes both the mental and physical actions involved
in understanding and knowing.
• mental or cognitive structures which enables a person to adapt and
to organise the environment. Schemas are categories of knowledge
that help us to interpret and understand the world.
• Piaget called the schema the basic building block of intelligent
behavior – a way of organizing knowledge (includes both a category
of knowledge and the process of obtaining that knowledge).
• For example, at birth the schema of a baby is reflexive in nature such
as sucking and grasping. The sucking reflex is a schema and the
infant will suck on whatever is put in its mouth such as a nipple or a
• using an existing schema to deal with a new object or
situation. The process of taking in new information into our
previously existing schema’s is known as assimilation.
• A child sees a Zebra for the first time and immediately calls it
a Donkey. Thus, the child has assimilated into his schema that
this animal is a Donkey.
• To the child, the object (Zebra) has all the characteristics of a
Donkey– it fits in his Donkey schema – so the child concludes
that the object is a Donkey. The child has integrated the
object (Zebra) into his Donkey schema.
• Another part of adaptation involves changing or altering our
existing schemas in light of new information, a process known
• Accommodation involves altering existing schemas, or ideas,
as a result of new information or new experiences. New
schemas may also be developed during this process.
• The boy who had assimilated the Zebra as a Donkey will
eventually accommodate more information and thus realize
the different characteristics between a Zebra and a Donkey.
The child will learn that the Donkey is not a Donkey but a
Zebra, an accommodated ability.
• Piaget believed that cognitive development did not
progress at a steady rate, but rather in leaps and
• Equilibrium is occurs when a child's schemas can deal
with most new information through assimilation.
• However, an unpleasant state of disequilibrium occurs
when new information cannot be fitted into existing
• Equilibration is a balance between assimilation and
accommodation. Disequilibrium is an imbalance between
assimilation and accommodation
• . Equilibration helps explain how children are able to
move from one stage of thought into the next.
• Assimilation and accommodation are the two sides of
adaptation, Piaget’s term for what most of us would call
learning through which awareness of the outside world is
• Although one may predominate at any one moment, they are
two sides and inseparable and exist in a dialectical relationship
17. General Characteristicsof this Stages:
These four stages have been found to have the following
1. Each stage is a structured whole and in a state of equilibrium.
2. Each stage derives from the previous stage and incorporate and
transform to prepare for the next and no going back.
3. The stages follow an invariant sequence. There is no skipping
4. The stages are universal. Culture does not impact the stages.
Children everywhere go through the same stages no matter what
their cultural background is.
5. Each stage is a coming into being. There is a gradual progression
from stage to stage.
19. 1. SENSORIMOTOR STAGE
The first stage of Piaget’s theory starts from birth to
approximately age 2 and is centered on the infant trying to
make sense of the world. During this stage, the
child's knowledge is limited to sensory perceptions and
simple motor activities. e.g. looking, sucking, grasping.
It can be divided into 6 separate sub-stages.
20. 1.Reflexes (0-1 month):
• In the first month of life, infants’ behaviors reflect innate
reflexes—automatic responses to particular stimuli.
• The child understands the environment purely through inborn
reflexes such as suckling, grasping, knee-jerking. These are the
reactive functions that infants essentially exit the womb with.
These behaviors are typically, quickly reinforced to provide
food when hungry, grab things in the environment, and pull
away from potentially threatening sensations. For instance, if
you put a nipple or pacifier in or near a newborn’s mouth, she
will automatically suck on it.
• The infant soon begins to modify some reflexes to better
accommodate to the environment—for instance, by learning to
distinguish between a nipple and the surrounding areas of a
breast or bottle.
21. 2. Primary Circular Reactions (1-4 months):
• It involves coordinating sensation and new schemas.
• In the first few months of life, infants’ behaviors are
focused almost exclusively on their own bodies (in
Piaget’s terminology, the behaviors are primary) and are
repeated over and over again (i.e., they are circular).
• Infants also begin to refine their reflexes and combine
them into more complex actions.
For example: A child may such his or her thumb by
accident and then later intentionally repeat the action.
These actions are repeated because the infant finds them
22. 3. Secondary Circular Reactions (4-8
• In this stage the child become more aware
of and more responsive to the outside
world (their behaviors become secondary),
• they begin to notice that their behaviors
can have interesting effects on the objects
• The child becomes more focused on the
world and begins to intentionally repeat an
action in order to trigger a response in the
For example: A child will purposefully
pick up a toy in order to put it in his or her
23. 4. Coordination of Reactions (8-12 months):
• The child starts to show clearly intentional actions. The
child may also combine schemas in order to achieve a
• After repeatedly observing that certain actions lead to
certain consequences, infants gradually acquire
knowledge of cause-effect relationships. For example: 1.
A child might realize that a rattle will make a sound when
• Another acquisition at this sub-stage is object
permanence, means knowing that an object still exists,
even if it is hidden. According to Piaget, Object
Permanence is a child's awareness or understanding that
objects continue to exist even though they cannot be
seen or heard.
24. 5. Tertiary Circular Reactions (12-18
• Piaget believed this marks the
developmental starting point for
curiosity and interest in novelty.
• Beginning sometime around their
first birthday, infants show
increasing flexibility and creativity
in their behaviors, and their
experimentation with objects often
leads to new outcomes. .
25. 6. Early Representational Thought (18-24
• Piaget proposed that in the latter half
of the second year, young children
develop symbolic thought, the ability to
represent and think about objects and
events in terms of internal, mental
entities, or symbols.
• To some degree, mental prediction and
planning replace overt trial-and-error
as growing toddlers experiment and
attempt to solve problems.
• The capacity for mental representation
is seen in the emergence of deferred
imitation, the ability to recall and copy
another person’s behaviors
26. 2. Preoperational Stage
(2 to 7 yrs) (Toddler and Early Childhood)
• This stage begins when the child starts to use symbols and
language. This is a period of developing language and concepts.
So, the child is capable of more complex mental representations
(i.e. words and images).
• He is still unable to use ‘operations’, i.e. logical mental rules,
such as the rules of arithmetic. It is divided into two sub-stages:
1. Preconceptual stage (2 to 4 years): Here, cognitive
development becomes increasingly dominated by symbolic
activity. The child can use symbols to stand for actions; a toy
doll stands for a real baby. Language also develops during this
2. Intuitive stage (5 to 7 years): This stage is characterized by the
way in which children base their knowledge on what they feel
or sense to be true, yet they cannot explain the underlying
principles behind what they feel or sense.
27. • The following are the key features of this stage:
1. Egocentrism: The child’s thoughts and communications
are typically egocentric (i.e. about themselves or his/her
point of view) E.g.:” If I can’t see you, you can’t see me!”.
It is the inability to see the world through anyone else’s
eyes except on his own. It is well explained by Piaget as
Three Mountain Task.
28. 2. Animism: Treating inanimate
objects as living ones. E.g.:
Children bathing, dressing and
feeding their dolls as if they are
29. 3. Centration: It refers to the tendency to focus on only one
aspect of a situation, problem or object, and so cannot see
the big picture. Centration is noticed in conservation: the
awareness that altering a substance's appearance does not
change its basic properties. Children at this stage are
unaware of conservation. They are unable to grasp the
concept that a certain liquid be the same volume regardless
of the container shape.
30. 3. Concrete Operational Stage
(7 to 12 yrs of age) (Childhood and earlyAdolescence)
characterized by the appropriate use of logic. Important
processes during this stage are:
1. Seriation: the ability to sort objects in an order according to
size, shape or any other characteristic. Eg.: if given different-
shaded objects, they may make a colour gradient.
2. Transitivity: the ability to recognize logical relationships among
elements in a serial order. Eg.: if A is taller than B and B is taller
than C, then A must be taller than C.
3. Classification: the ability to name and identify sets of objects
according to appearance, size or other characteristic, including
the idea that one set of objects can include another
31. 4. Decentering: where the child takes into account multiple aspects
of a problem to solve it. For example, the child will no longer
perceive an exceptionally wide but short cup to contain less than
a normally-wide, taller cup.
5. Reversibility: the child understands that numbers or objects can
be changed, then returned to their original state
6. Conservation: understanding that quantity, length or number of
items is unrelated to the arrangement or appearance of the
object or items.
7. Elimination of Egocentrism: the ability to view things from
However, in this stage child can solve problems that apply to
actual (concrete) objects or events only, and not abstract
concepts or hypothetical tasks.
32. 4. Formal Operational Stage
This is the most complete stage of development. In this stage, the
1. thought becomes increasingly flexible and abstract, i.e., can carry out
2. ability to systematically solve a problem in a logical and methodical way.
3. Understand that nothing is absolute; everything is relative.
4. Skills such as logical thought, deductive reasoning, and systematic
planning develop inductive as well as deductive logic.
5. Understand that the rules of any games or social system are developed
by man by mutual agreement and hence could be changed or modified.
6. The child’s way of thinking is at its most advanced, although the
knowledge it has to work with will change.
• Jean Piaget’s theories are imbedded into the school
system in the sense that the curriculum is based on
his stage theory.
• The curriculum is designed to teach students at the
first stage and progressively teach new learning to
change the schemas in order to move students
through each stage.