Psychological Development Across the Lifespan - Jean Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

4 important questions on Psychological Development Across the Lifespan - Jean Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

What did Piaget mean by the sensory-motor stage?

The sensory-motor stage covers the first two years of life. It is roughly parallel with Freud's oral stage and Erikson's Trust vs. Mistrust stage.

In this stage, the child only knows the world through direct physical contact. In other words, the child only knows the world through sensory experience (e.g., touch or sight) or motor action (e.g., kicking or grasping).

What role does language play in the pre-operational stage?

Piaget thought that the development of language was a milestone in cognitive development. Language, or what the called the semiotic function, frees the child from the prison of the here and now. Not only can children think about things that are not immediately present, but they can also communicate about them to other people.

The semiotic function shepherds the child out of the sensory-motor stage and into the pre-operational stage.

What does Piaget mean by an operation?

Piaget uses the term operation to refer to the ability to act upan an object in one's mind. Piaget believed that knowledge came from action. The child acts upon the world and therefore learns via direct experience how the world functions.

When Piaget spoke about operations, he meant that the child was able to perform mental action on the world, or on objects within the world. 

What about the formal operational stage?

The formal operational stage begins around the age of 12. This is the beginning of adolescence, a time of tremendous change in all areas of development. As Piaget points out, among the many changes associated with adolescence, there are significant cognitive changes as well.

Primarily, the adolescent can effectively reason about the possible. While children in the concrete operational stage can reason about actual physical events, they are less effective when reasoning about potentional or hypothetical events. In this way, concrete operational children are more restricted to the present or to the concrete.

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