Cognitive Development – Concept, Piaget’s theory and stages

We explain what cognitive development is and what Piaget’s Theory consists of. Also, the four stages of cognitive development.

Cognitive development
Cognitive development begins in early childhood.

What is cognitive development?

When we talk about cognitive development, we mean the various stages that consolidate the innate ability of the human being to think, reason and use your mental tools. It is a gradual process, which has its beginnings in early childhood, and which motivates the desire of the individual to understand their environment and integrate into society.

Scholars of this process separate and delimit its progressive stages, in order to understand at what point in life certain mental skills are acquired. In this, of course, the objective conditions (physical, social, emotional) in which the individual develops. This specific growth in capabilities is known as cognitive learning.

In describing these stages, various scholars such as Jean Piaget, Toldan, Gestalt and Bandura have proposed their approaches to a scientific system that understands them. The best known is perhaps the Theory of cognitive development by the Swiss Piaget, which serves as the basis for various educational approaches focused on the enrichment of the childhood experience or “open education”.

Piaget’s theories contributed not only in this field, but also in the understanding of human intelligence, learning and the various forms of thought.

Piaget’s theory

Cognitive development
From two to seven years the child learns to assume fictional roles.

Piaget proposed his theory on the nature and development of human intelligence in the mid-twentieth century, and revolutionized the understanding of the matter. According to its postulates, cognitive development occurs through a series of different and recognizable stages, the beginning of which It occurs in childhood and requires the perception, adaptation and manipulation of the environment, as the infant actively explores the world.

The four stages of cognitive development proposed by Piaget are:

  • Sensory-motor or sensorimotor stage. The initial phase of the process, which begins at birth and culminates in the appearance of simple articulated language (around two years of age). It is an exploratory stage, in which the individual tries to collect as much as possible from his interaction with the environment, either through games, movements that are not always voluntary, and an egocentric consideration of the universe divided between the subject’s “I” and “the environment”. At this stage we also learn that the objects of the world, even if they are not clearly differentiated, remain even though we are not seeing them.
  • Pre-operational stage. This second stage takes place between the ages of two and seven, and is characterized by the learning of fictitious roles, that is, the possibility of putting oneself in someone else’s place, of acting and of using objects of a symbolic nature. Abstract thinking is still difficult, as is logical thinking, and instead magical thinking is prevalent.
  • Stage of concrete operations. Between the ages of seven and twelve, this is the stage when logical thinking begins to lead to valid conclusions, even if they still cost the most complex degrees of abstraction. A certain tendency to egocentricity in the individual is lost.
  • Stage of formal operations. The last of the stages of cognitive development, between twelve years and adulthood, is the period in which the individual acquires the ability to handle abstract thinking, being able to obtain valid conclusions from completely hypothetical situations, not lived, achieving thus to think about thinking, that is, to achieve metaphysical thinking and deductive hypothetical reasoning.

We must note that, although they are explained linearly, these stages do not occur separate from each other, nor as perfectly defined steps, but rather that the transit between one and the other is diffuse, varying according to the case.