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Piaget and the Development of Reasoning

Piaget and the Development of Reasoning

Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist who became intrigued the way children reasoned their wrong answers to the questions that required logical thinking. He theorized that their wrong answers were somehow related to important differences between the way children and adults think. Piaget was the first was the first psychologist to systematically conduct a study of cognitive development, specifically in children. His study consisted of theories on child cognitive development, a series of tests to study different cognitive abilities, and observational studies of cognition in children. Before Piaget’s experiment, it was assumed by the general public that children are not as competent as adults when it comes to the thought process. Ultimately, Piaget was able to prove that children are able to think in different ways comparable to adults.


The goal of Piaget’s theory was to explain the processes and mechanisms experienced through childhood, from the age of an infant’s to a child’s, later to develop into an individual adult who can later be capable of reasoning and thinking, using hypotheses. Piaget theorized that children first construct an understanding of the world and their setting around them, and then experience discrepancies between what their actually discover and experience in their environment and the idea of what they already know. This was Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, as it was a progressive re-organization of mental processes generated from taking in environmental experiences and biological maturation.


Piaget’s cognitive theory was composed of three basic components: schemas, adaptation processes that enable the transition from one stage to another, and the four stages of development. Schemas, as Piaget defined, is “a cohesive, repeatable action sequence possessing component actions that are tightly interconnected and governed by a core meaning”. Schemas are merely basic building blocks of intelligent behavior, or a way or organizing knowledge. Adaptation processes happen through assimilation, accommodation, and equilibrium. Assimilation is the process of taking in new information into our already existing schemas. It is using an existing schema to deal with a new object or situation. Accommodation is another part of adaptation that involves changing or altering our existing schemas in light of new information. This happens when the existing schema does not work, and needs to be changed to deal with a new object or situation. Equilibrium is the force that moves development along, as Piaget thought that cognitive development does not progress at a steady rate, but more in “leaps and bounds”. Equilibrium happens when a child’s schema works with new information through assimilation. Unpleasant states of disequilibrium happen when new information is unable to fit into an existing schema, which is referred to as assimilation. Piaget’s famous four stages of development is sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage, and the formal operational stage. The sensorimotor stage occurs from birth to about age 2. At this stage, our understanding is limited to direct contact, which includes sucking, touching, listening, and looking. The preoperational stage occurs from about age 2 to age 7. At this stage, we develop the ability to use symbols. We are learning how to count, but we do not understand what the numbers mean. The concrete operational stage occurs from age 7 to age 12. At this stage, our reasoning abilities are more developed. We can now understand numbers, size, causation, and speed. The operational stage occurs after the about the age of 12. At this stage, we are now capable of abstract thinking. We can talk about concepts, come to conclusions based on general principles, and use rules to solve abstract problems.