Cognitive development

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

What is cognitive development?

When we talk about cognitive development, we refer to the various stages that consolidate the innate ability of the human being to think , reason and use their mental tools. It is a gradual process , which has its beginnings in early childhood, and which motivates the individual’s desire 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 intervene. This specific growth of abilities is known as  cognitive learning .

In the description of these stages, various scholars such as Jean Piaget, Toldan, Gestalt and Bandura have proposed their approaches to a scientific system that includes them. Perhaps the best known is the  Swiss Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development  , which serves as a foundation for various educational approaches focused on enriching the child’s 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

Piaget proposed his theory on the nature and development of human intelligence in the mid-20th century, and it revolutionized our understanding of it. According to his postulates, cognitive development occurs through a series of different and recognizable stages, which begin in infancy and require 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:

  • Sensorimotor 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 “I” of the subject and “the environment”. At this stage we also learn that the objects of the world, even if they are not clearly differentiated, remain even when we are not seeing them.
  • Preoperational 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 the place of another, of acting and using objects of a symbolic nature. Abstract thinking is still difficult, as is logical thinking, and magical thinking is common instead.
  • Stage of concrete operations. Between seven and twelve years of age, this is the stage in which logical thinking begins to lead to valid conclusions, even if the most complex degrees of abstraction are difficult. A certain tendency to self- centeredness in the individual is lost.
  • Formal operations stage. The last of the stages of cognitive development, between the ages of twelve and adulthood, is the period in which the individual acquires the ability to manage abstract thought, being able to obtain valid conclusions from completely hypothetical situations, not experienced, achieving thus thinking about thinking, that is, reaching metaphysical thought and hypothetical-deductive reasoning .

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

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