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Four Stages of Cognitive Development

In the following article I will describe Jean Piaget’s theory of the four stages of cognitive development for children. I will also cover how children move through these stages, followed by some brief examples pertaining to environmental factors and so forth. In addition I will express my opinion of the gender factor of a person’s development.

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Cognitive development is the process of how a person throughout their entire life obtains knowledge, retains information, and uses it to trouble shoot their everyday life situations. When referring to the earlier years of a person’s development, psychologist often refer back to Jean Piaget discussion of the four stages of cognitive development for children; which are the Sensorimotor, Preoperational, Concrete Operational and the Formal Operational Stages.

The Sensorimotor Stage covers the time a child is born until they are two years of age, and is characterized as the first part of human life that takes in the world around them. This includes the child observing their environment with their senses, touch, taste, feel, smell and what they hear. At this stage an infant makes relationships and connections through their five senses, with their physical actions as well as their natural instincts. For example a baby when hungry will normally instinctively know to suck their mother’s breast or nipple of a bottle for sustenance.   

When a child becomes two years old they enter a stage known as the Preoperational Stage; which last until they are seven years old. During this stage the child starts to absorb images, sounds and words, which acts as symbols. From this point they begin to understand cause and effect as well as how one thing relates to another. With this line of thinking they are able to expand on how much information they are taking in and the connections that follow that information; where they are able to recall an experience. For example a three year old is jumping in the bath tub, falls into the water and bangs his head on the way down. His mother franticly grabs her baby out of the water and cuddles him. The child may sometimes relate the pain, fear, paired with his mother’s reaction to remove him from the water, as the water or tub is to be feared.

The Concrete Operational Stage follows the Preoperational Stage and last between the ages of seven through eleven. During this stage the child can rationalize and reason using logic gathered from their earlier experience, and events. At this stage the child is able to group objects and or people in to their separate categories based on their gathered knowledge thus far.  For example a little girl is watching a scary movie with her older brother, where one of the antagonists had distinct characteristics. Later, that week the little girl is with her mother in the grocery store, the cashier her mom chooses to check her groceries out with has features that resemble the character in the horror film the girl might ask her mom to go to another line or plainly express signs of fear towards the clerk.

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