What is cognitive development?

We explain what cognitive development is and what Piaget’s theory consists of. In addition, the four stages of cognitive development.

  1. What is cognitive development?

When we talk about cognitive development, we refer to the various stages that consolidate the innate capacity of human beings to think , reason and use their mental tools. It is a gradual process, which has its beginnings in early childhood, and that motivates the individual’s desire to understand their environment and integrate into society.

Scholars of this process separate and delimit their progressive stages , in order to understand at what point in life certain mental skills are acquired . This involves, of course, the objective conditions (physical, social, emotional) in which the individual develops. This specific growth of abilities is known as  cognitive learning .

In the description of these stages, various scholars such as Jean Piaget, Toldan, Gestalt and Bandura have proposed their approaches to a scientific system that understands them. The best known perhaps is the  Theory of cognitive development  of the Swiss Piaget, which serves as the basis for various educational approaches focused on the enrichment of children’s experience or “open education.”

Piaget’s theories contributed not only in this field, but also in the understanding of human intelligence, learning and various forms of thinking.

  1. Piaget’s theory

Cognitive development
From two to seven years the child learns to assume fictitious roles.

Piaget proposed his theory about the nature and development of human intelligence in the mid-twentieth century, and revolutionized the understanding we had about it. According to his postulates, cognitive development occurs through a series of different and recognizable stages, which begin in childhood and require the perception , adaptation and manipulation of the environment , as the infant actively explores the world.

The four stages of cognitive development proposed by Piaget are:

  • Sensory -motor or  sensiomotor stage . The initial phase of the process, which begins the birth and culminates the appearance of simple articulated language (towards two years of age). It is an exploratory stage, in which the individual tries to collect as much as possible from their interaction with the environment, whether through games, movements that are not always voluntary, and an egocentric consideration of the universe divided between the “I” of the subject and “the environment”. At this stage it is also learned that the objects of the world, even if they are not clearly differentiated, remain even if we are not seeing them.
  • Step  preoperational . This second stage takes place between the ages of two and seven, and is characterized by the learning of fictitious roles, that is, the possibility of putting oneself in the place of another, of acting and of using objects of a symbolic nature. Abstract thinking is still difficult, as is logical thinking, and instead magical thinking is frequent.
  • Stage of concrete operations . Between seven and twelve years of age, this is the stage in which logical thinking begins to lead to valid conclusions, even if they cost even the most complex degrees of abstraction. Some tendency to self-centeredness in the individual is lost .
  • Stage of formal operations . The last stage of cognitive development, between twelve years and adulthood, is the period in which the individual acquires the ability to handle abstract thinking, being able to obtain valid conclusions from situations that are completely hypothetical, not lived, achieving thus think about thinking, that is, reaching metaphysical thinking and deductive hypothetical reasoning.

We should note that, although they are explained linearly, these stages do not occur separately from each other, nor as perfectly defined steps, but that the transit between one and the other is diffuse, varying according to the case.

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