Cognitive Theory of Piaget

Jean Piaget a Swiss biologist as well as a Psychologist, was born on 9 August 1896  in Neuchatel and died on 16 September  1980 in Geneva, Switzerland. Arthur  Piaget, was his father, was a professor of medieval literature and Rebecca Jackson was his mother who encouraged him to be a devotee.

Piaget started writing papers by the age of 11 and got popularity with his articles on mollusks by the age of his teens when his readers considered him an expert in writing. Piaget was indeed interested in philosophy, especially psychology.

Piaget studied zoology at the University of Neuchatel after he completed school. Piaget completed his Ph.D. in Natural Sciences in 1918. During the same year, Piaget also studied Psychology at the University of Zurich where he developed his interest in psychoanalysis.

Piaget was working with some other psychologists like Alfred Binet, Theodore  Simon in Paris where he got the idea of measuring the intelligence quotient of the children but he was not satisfied with their idea so he concluded the factual knowledge of the children should not be measured with their intelligence or understanding because they are not perfect with life experiences.

Therefore, he developed an interview technique for probing and cognitive development. Piaget, a 20th-century  scholar, spent nearly six-decades studying child psychology and identified the stages of mental development of children by developing cognitive theory and developmental psychology. Piaget’s first apparent psychology was published in  ‘Journal de Psychologie’ in 1921.

Piaget studied his own three children’s behaviors regarding the study of their cognitive development. Piaget was appointed as a Professor of child psychology at the University of Geneva where he started large-scale research with several other psychologists.

Piaget also worked being a professor of psychology at the University of Lausanne for 17 years starting from 1937 to 1954. During this period, Piaget was also appointed as the chairman of experimental psychology and the President of the Swiss Society of  Psychology.

Piaget was a professor at the  Sorbonne in 1952 and after three years n 1955, he founded the International  Centre for Genetic Epistemology, where he worked as the Director for the rest of his life.

Piaget continued working on finding a history of cognitive development based on the findings from biological and psychological research.

Piaget was not satisfied with the behavioristic approach of learning that dominated learning fields for years so he proposed a dynamic model of learning which he referred to as a cognitive learning theory in which the active role of learning is played by the learner himself.

Regarding his learning theory, Piaget named ‘Genetic Epistemology’ in which he talked that infants possess the innate skill or knowledge of the organized the time they grow up through the concepts of assimilation, accommodation, etc.


Assimilation is the process of cognitive development when a child shows an appropriate behavior in the new environment based on his schema. This process, according to Piaget, is the first and basic process. For example, when we give a toy to a crawling baby, he takes it to his mouth because of the development of his sucking schema in his mind.


On the other, accommodation is the process in which the child tries to adjust to the new environment with his new thinking and behavior. In this process, the child changes his old concept into new which is the second important work of this process.

For example, the baby tries to catch or pull the toy when he understands the situation that he cannot lift it. The equilibrium process is the maximum adjustment of the child to new situations or circumstances by organizing his experiences.

Piaget termed the skills possessed by the infants ‘schema’ that are reorganized later in their life. According to Piaget, knowledge is a biological function that results from the activity of a person when he is exposed to a  new environment.

Every child is particularly different from another child in terms of his mental development. This difference, according to Piaget, is due to the various stages of organization in the mental structure.

Genetic Epistemology

Genetic Epistemology describes the process of how people develop cognitively from birth throughout their lives in the four primary stages i.e. sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operational, and formal operational stages.

First Stage

The Sensorimotor Stage is the first stage that occurs from birth to two years in which the language is not developed but the child reacts to his world by using his senses or his body exposures or gestures etc.

Second Stage

The Pre-Operational Stage occurs between two years to seven years in which the child uses different signs and symbolic thinking for the objects he is exposed to. For example,  the drawing of a dog or the written word ‘dog’  represents or refers to a ‘real dog’ but the  child cannot differentiate between one kilo of iron and one kilo of cotton because of lack of cognitive development.

Third Stage

The Concrete Operational Stage occurs between seven years to eleven years in which the child’s thinking is logical and organized so he is quite skillful in thinking logically.

Fourth Stage

The final stage is the Formal Operational Stage that occurs between twelve years to sixteen years or above. The child is very near to the maturity of his physical as well as mental so he can generalize one skill of one field to another field and he can also solve abstract problems.

According to Piaget, children are active, intelligent, and creative constructors of their knowledge structures.

Piaget used the term ‘Psychogenesis’ which is the process of developing the intellectuality of the children through their activities because as claimed by  Piaget, the children learn by themselves primarily through their works on external objects of knowledge and construct it when they attempt to organize in of their world.

According to Piaget, the stimuli not only make the children active but also make them think rationally in specific ways.

Therefore, the epistemologies of children are continuously on the way to changing when they act in and in the world. Piaget’s theory of cognitive development helps to conduct our teaching-learning activities based on the age, interests, ability, and individual differences of the learners. The intellectuality also can be applied in-class hours for effective teaching.

On the other, Piaget’s theory helps to adopt the instructional system according to the environment for developing various skills. Moreover, Piaget’s theory helps to generalize the problem-solving method or discovery method for the development of the intellectuality of the learners.

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