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Piagets theory of cognitive development Cheat Sheet by

Psychology a level


Jean piagets theory of cognitive develo­pment changed the thinking of how children’s thought process develops. As children grow their thought process change as a result of matura­tio­n(a­geing) and the enviro­nment. The mechanisms of cognitive develo­pment allow this to happen; schemas, assimi­lation, accomm­odation and equili­bra­tion.

Mechanisms of cognitive develo­pment

Schema: A mental structure of related facts that are based on previous experi­ences. A schema is used as a mental shortcut to quickly generate future expect­ations. Some schemes such as grasping and sucking are innate. They develop through intera­ction with enviro­nments.
Assimi­lation: The process of fitting a new experience into a pre existing schema.
Accomo­dation: Having to adjust a pre existing schema because new inform­ation does not fit. Accomm­odation is the conseq­uence of disequ­ili­brium.
Equili­bration: The driving force behind accomm­odation and develo­pment. If something can’t be assimi­lated then a sense of disequ­lib­ration (unbal­ance) is formed and the individual must accomm­odate for equili­brium to reoccur.


Face schemas are innate as shown by research by Fantz(­1961) and Goren et al(1975)
Equili­bration is hard to demons­trate Inhelder et al(1974). Bryant­(1955)
It has real world education applic­ation Bennet­t(1976)
Language: Vygotsky vs Piaget- support for Piaget from Sincla­ir-­de-­Zwa­rt(­1969)
The most compre­hensive theory of children’s cognitive develo­pment

Intell­ectual develo­pment

Piaget stated that through maturation the brain developed along with experi­ences. Enabling children to become capable of further levels of thinking through each stage of develo­pment.

Stages of develo­pment

Stage 1: Sensor­imotor stage (0-2y)
Key develo­pment: Object permenance
Stage 2: Pre-op­era­tional stage (2-7y)
Children are egocentric and lack conser­vation skills
Stage 3: Concrete operat­ional stage (7-11y)
Key develo­pment: Class inclusion and Logical reasoning
Stage 4: Formal operat­ional stage (11+y)
Key develo­pment: Abstract thinking

Class inclusion

Relati­onship between members where they are in two different classes but they still come under one master class.
E.g: ANIMAL- dog/cat.
Pre operat­ional children cannot understand catego­ris­ation into sublevels.


Piagets method­ology was flawed Mcgarrigle and Donald­son­(1974) naughty teddy. And Hughes­(1975) naughty doll
There is cultural bias, not universal
Altern­ative views- Vygotsky
Biolog­ically driven stages is correct Dasen(­1994)
Has important educat­ional applic­ation Plowden report­(1967)

Jean Piaget (1896-­1980)



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