Easy Guide: 4 Stages Of Piaget's Cognitive Development (2023)

Easy Guide: 4 Stages Of Piaget's Cognitive Development (1)

Jean Piaget’s cognitive development theory tells us that children learn and grow through four different stages of mental development.

But first, what is a cognitive theory?

Cognitive theories are scientific ideas that explain the mind as an interplay between our impression of the external realities and the mental processes we run on them.

There are three important cognitive theories:

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  1. Cognitive Developmental Theory by Piaget
  2. Social Cultural Cognitive Theory by Vygotsky
  3. Information Processing Theory, inspired by the works of George Armitage Miller, John William Atkinson, and Richard Shiffrin.

Now, let’s delve into the Piaget’s theory of cognitive development.

Who Was Jean Piaget And What Was His Theory

Jean Piaget was a Swiss developmental psychologist. He began his career as a biologist studying mollusks and sparrows. But, by the time he died in 1980, he was already one of the most significant psychologists of the twentieth century.

Piaget’s first interests were animals and he published his first scientific paper on albino sparrows in 1907, when he was barely 11 years old.

In 1920, he began working with standardized intelligence tests. He realized the younger children continuously and unfailingly made certain types of mistakes that the older children did not.

He concluded they must think differently, and decided to spend the rest of his life studying the intellectual development of children. In fact, Piaget was one of the first scientists to recognize that the way children think is quite different from the way adults do.

(Video) Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

In 1936, he published his Theory of Intellectual or Cognitive Development that still finds use in studying of education and psychology.

Piaget found children learn through an active process. Behaving a lot like little Einsteins, they stage experiments, make observations, and then learn new things about the world from their results. In fact, Albert Einstein called Piaget’s discovery as something “so simple only a genius could have thought of it.

His idea was that little children were different both in their manner and method of thinking than that of older children and adults. He proposed we acquire and develop our intelligence through a series of stages.

Piaget’s assumptions about children were:

  • Children build their knowledge based on their personal experiences.
  • They can learn things on their own without any contribution or motivation from adults or older children.
  • Children are naturally motivated to learn and do not need any rewards to spur them to learn new things.

Piaget believed children go through four stages of cognitive development in order to be able to understand the world.

Four Stages of Piaget’s Cognitive Development

Piaget’s four stages of cognitive or intellectual development includes children of ages from from birth to young adulthood.

Jean Piaget’s theory argues we have to conquer the following four stages of cognitive development before we start making a sense of our world:

  1. First, the sensori-motor stage.
  2. Second, the pre-operational stage.
  3. Third, the concrete operational stage.
  4. Fourth, the formal operational stage.
StageAge RangeCognitive Goal
1Sensori-motor stage0 to 2 yearsObjective permanence
2Pre-operatoonal stage2 to 7 yearsSymbolic thought
3Concrete operational stage7 to 11 yearsOperational thought
4Formal operational stage12 years to adultAbstract concepts

Only once we have gone through all the four stages, we are able to reach the full range of human intelligence.

Stage 1: Sensori-Motor Stage (0 – 2 Years)

In the sensori-motor stage, from birth to two years, we develop our mind through experiences and movements across our five senses. Our brain wants to see, hear, smell, taste and touch as much as possible.

First we start with simple reflexes, and soon after, we develop our first habits. From four months old, we become aware of things beyond our own body. Then, as we get older, we learn to do things intentionally.

A key milestone during this stage is the development of working memory or in Piaget’s terms — ‘our realization of object permanence‘.

Before that, our mom could show us a Teddy bear and then hide it, and we would think is gone. After acquiring object permanence, we understand the objects keep on existing even when we can see them no more.

We start becoming curious about everything. We want to smell flowers, taste food, listen to sounds and talk to strangers.

To explore more, we move, we learn to sit, crawl, stand, walk and even to run. This increased physical mobility consequently leads to increased cognitive development.

But we remain egocentric — meaning we can perceive the world only from our own point of view.

Stage 2: Pre-Operational Stage (2 – 7 Years)

Our thinking is mainly categorized for symbolic functions and intuitive thoughts when we are between two and seven years of age.

(Video) Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development - Simplest Explanation ever

We have lots of fantasies and believe objects are alive, as we are not able to apply specific cognitive operations.

Piaget calls this stage ‘pre-operational’. In this, we learn to speak and understand that words, images, and gestures are symbols for something else.

When we draw our family, we are not concerned about drawing each person to scale, but rather with their symbolic meanings.

Easy Guide: 4 Stages Of Piaget's Cognitive Development (2)

We love to play pretend, which allows us to experience something new and learn a lot.

At around age 4, most of us become very curious and ask many questions. We want to know everything. We can call it the birth of primitive reasoning. Piaget calls it ‘the intuitive age‘ because while we realize we have a vast amount of knowledge, we have no idea how we acquired it.

Nonetheless, our thinking during this stage is still largely egocentric. We think others see the world like we do, and still don’t understand that they see it differently.

Stage 3: Concrete Operational Stage (7 – 11 Years)

In the next stage, during seven to eleven years of age, we finally discover logic and start making concrete cognitive operations, such as sorting objects in a certain order.

One example of this is inductive reasoning, which means if we see someone eating a cookie we can draw a conclusion and then make a generalization as “People eat cookies.”

We understand if we pour orange juice from a normal glass to a taller one, the amount will stay the same. Our younger sister will pick the taller glass thinking she gets more.

We now get the concept of conservation.

By the same logic, we only now can understand that if 3 plus 5 equals 8, then 8 minus 3 must equal 5.

Our brain learns to rearrange our thoughts to classify and build concrete operational mental structures. For example, we now know that we can reverse an action by doing the opposite.

Excited by our new mental abilities, we apply them in conversations and activities, when we learn to write, and in school. As a result, we get to know ourselves better.

We begin to understand that our thoughts and feelings are unique and not necessarily those of others. That means that we learn to empathize — put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

Stage 4: Formal Operational Stage (12+ Years)

According to Piaget, once we cross our twelfth year milestone and become teenagers, we become formally operational.

We now have the ability to think more rationally about abstract concepts and hypothetical events. Our advanced cognitive abilities allow us to understand abstract concepts such as success and failure, love and hate.

We form a deeper understanding of our own identity and our morality.

(Video) Piaget's stages of cognitive development | Processing the Environment | MCAT | Khan Academy

We now also think that we understand why people behave the way they behave and as a result can become more compassionate.

Our brain can now do deductive reasoning, which means we can compare two statements and reach a logical generalization. Our new mental skills allow us to plan our life systematically and prioritize and we can make assumptions about events that have no necessary relation to reality.

We can now also philosophize and just think about thinking itself.

Our new sense for our identity now also creates egocentric thoughts and some of us start to see an imaginary audience watching them all the time.

Piaget believed in lifelong learning, but insisted the formal operational stage is the final stage of our cognitive development.

Piagets Stages of Cognitive Development : MCAT Mnemonic (Ep. 24)

Final Words

To close this, the best words would have be from the man himself:

Each time one prematurely teaches a child something he could have discovered himself, that child is kept from inventing it and consequently from understanding it completely.

If you want to be creative, stay in part a child, with the creativity and invention that characterizes children before they are deformed by adult society.

— Jean Piaget


Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy – medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related medical topics.

• Our story: Happiness India
• Email: Contact Us

(Video) Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

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Revisit A Section:

Who Was Jean Piaget And What Was His Theory

Four Stages of Piaget’s Cognitive Development

Stage 1: Sensori-Motor Stage (0 – 2 Years)

Stage 2: Pre-Operational Stage (2 – 7 Years)

Stage 3: Concrete Operational Stage (7 – 11 Years)

Stage 4: Formal Operational Stage (12+ Years)

(Video) How to Memorize Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development


What are the 4 stages of Piaget's cognitive development explained? ›

Sensorimotor stage (0–2 years old) Preoperational stage (2–7 years old) Concrete operational stage (7–11 years old) Formal operational stage (11 years old through adulthood)

What are the four 4 basic cognitive concepts under Piaget's stages cognitive development? ›

Piaget proposed four major stages of cognitive development, and called them (1) sensorimotor intelligence, (2) preoperational thinking, (3) concrete operational thinking, and (4) formal operational thinking. Each stage is correlated with an age period of childhood, but only approximately.

What are the 4 stages of Piaget's cognitive development Slideshare? ›

The four stages are: 1. Sensorimotor Stage (birth to 24 months) 2. Preoperational Stage (2-7 years old) 3. Concrete Operational Stage (7-11 years old) 4.

How do you memorize Piaget's stages of cognitive development? ›

The mnemonic to remember these four stages is: Some People Can fly. So you can see sensorimotor, pre operational, concrete operational, and formal operational and some people can fly.

What have you understand about the 4 basic cognitive concepts? ›

Summary. Piaget's theory of cognitive development is based on the belief that a child gains thinking skills in four stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational. These stages roughly correspond to specific ages, from birth to adulthood.

How do you explain Piaget's theory? ›

Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development suggests that intelligence changes as children grow. A child's cognitive development is not just about acquiring knowledge, the child has to develop or construct a mental model of the world.

What are the four 4 main teaching implications of Piaget's theory to education? ›

His theory has influenced concepts of individual and student-centred learning, formative assessment, active learning, discovery learning, and peer interaction.

What 4 factors did Piaget identify that influence our thinking processes and change how we think? ›

Piaget identified four factors—biological maturation, activity, social experiences, and equilibration—that interact to influence changes in thinking. One of the most important influences on the way we make sense of the world is maturation, the unfolding of the biological changes that are genetically programmed.

What is one challenge to Piaget's 4/stage theory of cognitive development? ›

Challenges to the theory

Evidence suggests that children can perform certain cognitive tasks at a younger age than Piaget suggests is possible. Piaget's theory does not account for other influences on cognitive development, such as social and cultural influences.

What are the 4 aspects of cognitive development? ›

There are four stages to cognitive information development. They are, reasoning, intelligence, language, and memory. These stages start when the baby is about 18 months old, they play with toys, listen to their parents speak, they watch tv, anything that catches their attention helps build their cognitive development.

What is the conclusion of Piaget's theory? ›

After many years of observation, Piaget concluded that intellectual development is the result of the interaction of hereditary and environmental factors. As the child develops and constantly interacts with the world around him, knowledge is invented and reinvented.

What is the significance to classroom teachers to understand Piaget's four stages? ›

By using Piaget's theory in the classroom, teachers and students benefit in several ways. Teachers develop a better understanding of their students' thinking. They can also align their teaching strategies with their students' cognitive level (e.g. motivational set, modeling, and assignments).

What is the importance of knowing the cognitive stages of development? ›

Cognitive skills allow children to understand the relationships between ideas, to grasp the process of cause and effect and to improve their analytical skills. All in all, cognitive skill development not only can benefit your child in the classroom but outside of class as well.

Why is it important to learn about Piaget's theory? ›

Jean Piaget's work is important because it provides us with insights into cognitive processes during childhood. It helps teachers identify what needs to be taught and when. The following sections will explore some of the key ideas behind Piagetian theories.

What is cognitive learning in your own words? ›

What is Cognitive Learning? Cognitive learning is an active style of learning that focuses on helping you learn how to maximize your brain's potential. It makes it easier for you to connect new information with existing ideas hence deepening your memory and retention capacity.

What is cognitive theory in your own words? ›

Cognitive theories are characterized by their focus on the idea that how and what people think leads to the arousal of emotions and that certain thoughts and beliefs lead to disturbed emotions and behaviors and others lead to healthy emotions and adaptive behavior.

What is cognitive in your own understanding? ›

Cognition is defined as 'the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses. ' At Cambridge Cognition we look at it as the mental processes relating to the input and storage of information and how that information is then used to guide your behavior.

What is a real life example of Piaget's theory? ›

For example, a child may use a banana as a pretend telephone, demonstrating an awareness that the banana is both a banana and a telephone. Piaget argued that children in the concrete operational stage are making more intentional and calculated choices, illustrating that they are conscious of their decentering.

How does Piaget's theory impact child development? ›

According to Piaget, the educator's function is to assist children in their learning. Instead of pushing information, the emphasis is on sharing the learning experience. Encouraging children to be active, engaged and creating situations where children can naturally develop their mental abilities.

How do we use Piaget theory today? ›

Answer and Explanation: The theory of cognitive development focuses on the fact that a child's environment plays a great role in how they acquire new knowledge. It is used by many parents and teachers today as a guide to choosing activities that are appropriate for children of different ages and developmental stages.

How are Piaget's features applied to teaching and learning? ›

Piaget's theory assumes that all children go through the same developmental sequence but that they do so at different rates. Therefore, teachers must make a special effort to arrange classroom activities for individuals and small groups of children rather than for the total class group.

What are the 4 approaches to learning? ›

Approaches to Learning
  • Emotional and Behavioral Self-Regulation.
  • Cognitive Self-Regulation (Executive Functioning)
  • Initiative and Curiosity.
  • Creativity.
20 Nov 2020

What are the four factors that influence teaching? ›

The maturity, age, motivation, previous learning, intelligence, mental health, physical need, diet and nutrition, attention and interest, goal-setting and level of aspiration are the factors affecting teaching related to learners.

What are the 4 models of effective teaching? ›

The 4 major teacher evaluation models and what they can do
  • The Value-Added Model (VAM) In basic terms, VAM measures how a certain teacher contributes to the progress of their students. ...
  • Teacher observations. ...
  • The Framework Model. ...
  • The Marzano Focused Teacher Evaluation Model.
29 Oct 2018

What are the problems that you encounter about your cognitive development? ›

Unique Issues in Cognitive Development
  • Learning styles and multiple intelligences. Every adolescent learns and processes information in a different way. ...
  • Disabilities. ...
  • Trauma. ...
  • Mental health disorders. ...
  • Substance use.

What are the four negative factors that can affect the cognitive deve? ›

  • Nutrition. Major nutritional risk factors for poor child development include IUGR, stunting, iodine deficiency, and iron-deficiency anemia. ...
  • Environment. Malaria, lead exposure, and HIV are major environmental risk factors for poor child development. ...
  • Maternal-Child Interactions.
1 Apr 2017

What influences Piaget's cognitive development? ›

Piaget believed that our thinking processes change from birth to maturity because we are always trying to make sense of our world. These changes are radical but slow and four factors influence them: biological maturation, activity, social experiences, and equilibration.

What are the four areas of development with an example? ›

Four major areas
  • Motor development. Motor development includes gross and fine motor skills. ...
  • Cognitive development. From birth, babies are already developing cognitive abilities such as thinking, memory, attention, reasoning, and planning. ...
  • Emotional development. ...
  • Social development.

Why is it important to know the stages of learning? ›

Understanding the stages of learning can help you become a better educator. Learning makes the world go around, so be sure to help your members reach their full potential by making them conscious of their level of competence.

Why is it important that would be teachers like you must understand the different development stages or tasks of an individual? ›

As children go through their different stages of life, they approach learning in different ways. When an educator has an intricate understanding of human development, they can use that understanding to make assessments about the behaviours of children in the classroom.

Why is it important for a teacher to be aware of his students cognitive and learning styles? ›

It is important for teachers to know their learners' preferred learning styles because this knowledge will help teachers to plan their lessons to match or adapt their teaching and to provide the most appropriate and meaningful activities or tasks to suit a particular learner group at different stages.

What are the four stages of cognitive development quizlet? ›

Terms in this set (4)
  • Sensorimotor (stage 1) experiencing the world through senses and actions (looking, hearing, touching, mouthing, and grasping). ...
  • Preoperational (stage 2) ...
  • concrete operational (stage 3) ...
  • Formal operational (stage 4)

Why is Piaget's 4 stages of cognitive development important? ›

Piaget's theory of cognitive development helped add to our understanding of children's intellectual growth. It also stressed that children were not merely passive recipients of knowledge. Instead, kids are constantly investigating and experimenting as they build their understanding of how the world works.

What are the 4 cognitive types? ›

The Cognitive Functions in theory and practice. The starting point is Carl Jung's theory of cognitive functions. He identified four of them, which he labeled as sensation, intuition, thinking, and feeling.

What are the 4 areas of development and what develops? ›

Four major areas
  • Motor development. Motor development includes gross and fine motor skills. ...
  • Cognitive development. From birth, babies are already developing cognitive abilities such as thinking, memory, attention, reasoning, and planning. ...
  • Emotional development. ...
  • Social development.

What are the four 4 domains of development and learning? ›

This shows the students' developmental “space” as consisting of four developmental domains: cognitive, social, affective and psychomotor.


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