Piaget's Four Stages of Cognitive Development

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  • Created by: Em
  • Created on: 11-05-16 11:13

Sensorimotor Stage (0-2 years)

Object Permenance 

  • The understanding that objects still exist even though they can't be seen, heard or touched

Goal-Directed Behaviour

  • The ability to perform and successfully complete a sequence of actions with a particular purpose ('goal') in mind
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Pre-Operational Stage (2-7 years)

Symbolic Thinking 

  • The ability to use symbols (such as pictures or words) to represent objects that aren't physically present 


  • The tendency to perceive the world solely from your own perspective 


  • The belief that everything that exists has some kind of consciousness (awareness)


  • The understanding that something can change from one state, form or structure to another 


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Pre-Operational Stage (2-7 years)


  • The process of focusing on only one quality or feature of an object or event at a time


  • The ability to mentally follow a sequence of events or line of reasoning back to its starting point 
  • This includes recognising that something can change and then return to its original condition
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Concrete Operational (7-12 years)

Mental operations

  • The ability to accurately imagine the consequence of something happening without it needing to happen


  • The ability to organise objects or events into categories based on common features that separate them from other categories
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Concrete Operational (7-12 years)

Conservation of Length

  • A child can recognise a length of rope hasn't changed even when the rope has been tied up

Conservation of Volume 

  • A child can recognise that if liquid is poured form a tall glass to a short glass there is still the same amount of liquid despite the different heights 

Conservation of Mass

  • The understanding that mass/matter of an object remains the same even when it changes its appearance 

Conservation of Number 

  • A child will recognise there are the same number of sweets in both rows even if one row of sweets is more spaced out
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Formal Operational (12+ years)

Abstract Thinking 

  • A way of thinking that does not rely on being able to see, experience or manipulate in order to understand something
  • Adolescents usually use this way of thinking to understand ethical issues, the consequences of their parents losing their job 
  • They will use this thinking to develop their beliefs, morals and values

Deductive Reasoning 

  • Involves using logical rules to draw conclusions from two or more pieces of information believed to be true

Idealistic Thinking 

  • Adolescents often compare themselves/others to a perfect standard and strive to be like their idea person, they also think about the most desirable characteristics in themselves/others
  • They have the ability to think of alternatives to current national/global issues but sometimes without considering what is realistically possible within a timeframe
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