Piaget's theory of cognitive process


Piaget's theory of cognitive development has been one of the great advances in the history of psychology, especially the branch focused on child development.

Its first stage, the sensorimotor stage, is one of fundamental importance in the cognitive growth of infants, in addition to being in which an important aspect of the human mind appears: the permanence of the object.

What is the sensorimotor stage?

The sensorimotor stage is the first of the four stages of the theory of cognitive development, elaborated by Jean Piaget (1954, 1964). This stage extends from birth to 24 months of age, and is characterized by being a period in which the infant's cognitive abilities develop very rapidly.

The child gains a greater understanding of the world through trial and error, through their senses and their actions. At the beginning of the stage babies are characterized by extreme egocentrism, that is, they have no understanding of the world other than their own current point of view. To put it one way, it's as if they don't know where the world is going when they close their eyes.

The main achievement of this stage raised by Piaget is to break with this egocentrism, understanding that objects and events exist regardless of whether they are perceived or not. This is known as the permanence of the object, that is, knowing that an object continues to exist, however hidden it may be. To achieve this achievement, it is necessary that the infant has the ability to form a mental representation or scheme of said object or event.

Piagetian methodology

Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist and epistemologist who greatly influenced developmental psychology. His research was essential to change the scientific vision that was held about childhood. Before this Swiss psychologist broke into his theories, it was believed that children were passive receptacles that were shaped by their environment, without the ability to discover it for themselves.

Piaget did not focus on what children know but on their ability to cope with the world, going from stage to stage of growth. This psychologist firmly believed that babies built knowledge by analyzing every object or expression they saw in other people. Based on what he found in his research, Piaget divided cognitive development into four stages.

  • Sensorimotor stage
  • Pre-operational stage
  • Concrete operations stage
  • Formal operations stage

Each one of these stages has different characteristics, and the Piagetian description of each one of them allows us to have a deep understanding of what child behavior and thinking is like.

Sub-stages of the sensorimotor stage

Jean Piaget elaborated his well-known theory of cognitive development from his findings by carefully observing the behavior of his own sons Jacqueline, Lucienne and Laurent. In 1952 he would begin to lay the foundations of the theory, although his investigations of the sixties would finish shaping it.

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