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Piaget’s Theory of Development – Preoperational to Concrete Operational

Piaget had four stages in his Cognitive-Developmental Theory of Development, Sensorimotor, Preoperational, Concrete Operational, and Formal Operational. This is a small synopsis, focusing on the shift from Preoperational to Concrete Operational.

Piaget’s Stages – Crossover from Preoperational to Concrete Operational

Piaget’s Theory of Development has four stages:

1) Sensorimotor – 0 to 2 years

2) Preoperational – 2 to 7 years

3) Concrete Operational – 7 to 11 years

4) Formal Operational – age 11 and up

As a child progresses through these stages they are developing cognitively, and their mental capabilities increase with each stage. I’m going to be focusing on the shift between the second and third stages, and what the differences are between children in the Preoperational Stage and the Concrete Operational Stage.

One of the differences lies in the child’s capbilities of centration and, the opposite, decentration. Centration is what you see when a child can only focus on one aspect of something. The most well known test for this is to make a line of cookies, and then, as the child watches, move them farther apart or closer together. Finally ask the child if there are the same number, less, or more cookies.

A child in the Preoperational Stage will most likely only see the fact that the length of the line has changed and not the fact that there have been no cookies added or taken away. They will say, depending on what you did to the line of cookies, that there are either fewer or more cookies. A child in the Concrete Operational stage will realize that the number of cookies hasn’t changed, because they have moved beyond centration into decentration.

Another difference between the stages lies in a child’s ability to categorize the different parts of their world. Complex categorization isn’t possible until the Concrete Operational stage. This means that, while still in the Preoperational stage, a child cannot see how someone can be more than one thing at once. They cannot be both a daughter and a sister, they don’t understand. After a child has entered the Concrete Operational stage, they can make sense of this.

Egocentrism is something else that a child has to overcome before entering the Concrete Operational stage, something else indicative of the fact that they are still in the Preoperational stage. Egocentrism is being centered around yourself, but it’s not the same as being self-centered in the way the term is commonly used. A child who has not gotten past egocentrism cannot see the world from someone else’s perspective. They think that everyone else thinks like they do, feels what they do, and sees what they do.

After a child is able to accomplish decentration, complex categorization, and has overcome egocentrism, they are in the Conrete Operational stage of Piaget’s Theory of Development.

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