Piaget’s Theory

In one of his experiments, Piaget asked children, “What makes the wind?”
Here is a dialogue between him and a 5-year-old girl named Julia. What do you think of Julia’s explanations?

Piaget: What makes the wind?
Julia: The trees.
Piaget: How do you know?
Julia: I saw them waving their arms.
Piaget: How does that make the wind?
Julia (waving her hand in front of his face): Like this. Only they are bigger. And there are lots of trees.
Piaget: What makes the wind on the ocean?
Julia: It blows there from the land. No. It’s the waves…

Before Jean Piaget, a Swiss developmental psychologist and philosopher, most theorists believed that children are the way they are because they are less intelligent than adults. Piaget claimed that it was not a matter of intelligence; it was just that children think in fundamentally different ways compared to adults. Let’s take the answers to the question about the wind. Piaget saw little point in classifying them as correct or incorrect. Julia’s beliefs may not be correct, but they aren’t incorrect either — they are consistent with what she knows about the surrounding world and in a way are logical.

According to Piaget, children are active thinkers or little scientists who try to figure out the world around them. They are not just limited to receiving knowledge from their parents or teachers, but they build their own knowledge by means of experience and according to their age.

Piaget claimed that cognitive development is a systematic, structured process and all children go through four stages: sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operational and formal operational in sequence, however the rate at which they do so may vary. In each stage, they develop new intellectual abilities and increase their understanding of the world.


Analyse the table and do the exercise that follows.

Stages of Cognitive Development

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