Piaget’s stages of cognitive development | Processing the Environment | MCAT | Khan Academy


– [Instructor] A long time
ago, people used to think that children were just
miniature versions of adults, and that they thought in
pretty much the same way. But then this guy Piaget
came along and he figured out that children actually
reason quite differently. In fact, he believed that
children are actively constructing their understanding of
the world as they grow, so that as their bodies grow,
their minds grow as well. He thought that this happened
generally in different stages. So, I want to tell you
about Piaget’s four stages of cognitive development. First, we start out
with zero to two years. At this point, children are said to be in the sensorimotor stage. This word kind of makes sense. Sensori just comes from the senses. So he said children gather
information about their world with their eyes, so through
sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. So that’s why whenever you
see a baby zero to two years, they’re always touching stuff
and putting it in their mouth. Then the motor part is
that they are very active. As they discover how to use their senses, they also discover how to
move their bodies around. This helps them explore
the world and learn what they’re capable of. The main task or awareness
that develops during this time is object permanence. This just means that
infants don’t recognize that objects still exist even
though they can’t see them. For example, if you give an
infant a toy or something, say you have a nice ball for them, and you take it away,
they won’t look for it because they don’t understand
that it still exists. The next stage occurs from about age two to right around six or seven years. The reason I’m being a little
wishy-washy on the years is because these are really
just general guidelines. It’s not really hard and fast rules of when these stages happen. The next stage is the
preoperational stage. The operational part just
means mental operation, so imagining things or
mentally reversing actions, things like that. The thing to notice
about this phase is that this is really when
children start to develop and engage in pretend play, and they’ll begin to
be able to use symbols to represent things. What you might notice is
that around age two is also when children learn to talk. As they learn that
words symbolize objects, that starts to help them into
the preoperational stage, and understand the idea of symbols. Children of this age are very egocentric. That’s not a bad thing. They’re not just arrogant
and bragging all the time. They just don’t understand
that other people have a different point of view than they do. If you’re ever watching TV with a child, like a five-year-old, they might sit down right in front of you and not understand that you can’t see through
them, because they can see. Also, sometimes kids will try
to hide from you at this stage by covering their eyes. The whole, I can’t see
you, you can’t see me idea. Then once they get to about age seven to about age 11 years old, then they are in the
concrete operational stage. Again, remember operational
means mental operations, and now they can do concrete operations. So this is where children
learn the idea of conservation. If you know a little kid
and want to see what stage of development they’re in, then
you can do this little test. It’s pretty fun. It’s easy. You take two identical glasses
and pour the same amount of water in them, and
show them to the child and say, “Which one has more?” And kids will tell you they
all have the same amount. Then, right in front of the
child, so that she sees you, you take one of those glasses and pour it into a short, fat glass. Then you take the other one and pour it into a tall, skinny glass. Then right away, ask the child again, “Which one has more?” Up until concrete operational,
the child’s going to say the tall, skinny glass has more
because the water’s higher. But once they reach the
concrete operational stage, and understand that the
amount of water doesn’t change just because the glasses
are different sizes, then they’ll tell you
that they both still have the same amount of water, even
though they look different. So that’s a fun little test. At this stage, children can also begin to reason about mathematics. They’ll be able to
understand that 8 + 4=12, and then that must mean that 12 – 4=8. Moving on up, children
from about age 12 and up are in what Piaget called
the formal operational stage. That’s when children are able to reason about abstract concepts and
think about consequences of potential actions. They’re able to reason
out what might occur. Also, Piaget thought that this is where really sophisticated moral reasoning began to take place. At this point, children are
reasoning more like adults, and they continue to
develop that over time. Later developmentalists have
come along and figured out that these stages aren’t
quite so discreet as Piaget may have originally thought. Children don’t always
develop these abilities within the certain age brackets, but they do tend to progress
in a predictable fashion. Thanks to Piaget, now we
know that children are more than just miniature adults. So, go find a child and
see what stage they’re in. Test Piaget’s theory yourself.

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