Understanding Piaget’s Theory And Current Criticism

1299 words - 5 pages

Several years ago, an insightful and profound man, Jean Piaget, established a theory of cognitive growth during childhood. This theory was viewed as a major model for understanding the intricate steps of mental development from the thinking to understanding for a child. This theory also gave rise to the mentality that cognitive processes during childhood are not minuscule versions of adults but rather an irrational yet unique process with its own rules. Even though Piaget’s theory seems quite reasonable and logical, under the light of recent speculation his theory has been widely challenged. However, Piaget’s theory holds great impact in today’s psychology.
But to understand the effectiveness of Piaget’s theory, one must first understand the details of the theory and the reason for it. First, Piaget believed that as children construct their understandings while interacting with the world, they experience spurts of change, followed by greater stability as they move from one cognitive plateau to the next. He viewed this plateaus as stages. Now lets look into Piaget’s stages for understanding the distinct characteristics that permit different kinds of thinking.
The "sensorimotor stage" is the first stage of Piaget’s theory. This stage occurs around 2 years old. This stage is essentially time of practical discovery through interaction with the environment through the senses and external actions. During this period of practical discovery, Piaget proposed that a child at this period is born with no sense of "object permanence" - that is the understanding that objects continue to exist in their own right, when they are not being directly manipulated or immediately perceived. Through observations of infants of 2 years or less, Piaget validated his theory that it is during the sensorimotor stage that a child acquires object permanence. (Piaget 1963)
Next, the "pre-operational stage" is the second stage of Piaget’s theory. This stage lasts from around 2 - 7 years. In this stage, Piaget proposed that a child fails to understand the concept “conservation” - the belief that things remain constant in terms of number, quantity and volume irrespective of variations in appearance. In experiments to test number conservation, Piaget showed the child two sets of checkers, which had exactly the same number of checkers in each set. He then changed one of the checker sets, keeping the same amount of checkers in it, so that it was only different in appearance. When the experiment ended, the results showed that the children believed that the sets were of different quantity, thereby, proving Piaget’s theory factual. (Piaget 1952)
Furthermore, within the pre-operational stage Piaget identified a characteristic that he referred to as "egocentrism." This is the child’s inability to see the world from another’s perspective. Piaget observed this phenomenon in his "Three mountains scene" experiment (Piaget & Inhelder, 1956). In an experiment, a child sat on one side of a...

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