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Four stages of Cognitive Development | Stages of Cognitive Development b.ed notes


Four Stages of Cognitive Development 


Piaget believed that all children go through four stages of cognitive development. These stages are usually associated with particular age groups. 

According to Piaget, children may take more or less time to move from one stage to another, or they may show characteristics of one stage in one stage or another. 

The status may also reflect the characteristics of a higher or lower status. 

So we cannot tell how the child is thinking on the basis of his age alone. Piaget prefers stage rather than age which is wider than age.

Infancy Sensorimotor Stage (0-2 Years)


The early period of cognitive development is called the sensorimotor stage. In this stage the child learns through his/her sensory senses (seeing, hearing, walking, touching, tasting etc.) and motor activities. 

These children show the development of object permanence. This means that the child begins to understand that an object can exist even if it is not present in front of it.

Although the child is not able to experience it directly through the senses. It is from here that the ability of mental representation develops in children.


Before object permanence, it is very easy to take and hide things from children, but after its development, children start trying to look and find the hidden object here and there. 

This shows that the child has an understanding that things are still there even when they are not in front of them. 

One of the main achievements of the sensory-muscular stage is that it initiates purposeful actions. In this stage, children copy the behavior of adults. 

Remembering what the elders said, they repeat their behavior in their absence. Deferred imitation behavior. They also imitate everyday pretend activities and also do imaginary activities. Like pretending to cook etc. 

Pre-operational stage (2-7 years)


By the end of the sensori-motor period, children can perform many actions.

In this stage, children start performing mental operations. Mental operation means doing activities with thinking and trying to solve the problem in the mind-brain. 

In the pre-operational stage, children move towards mastery, but they are not yet fully proficient in the use of mental operations, hence it is called pre-operational stage.

In this stage, children try to do every work by symbolic mental activities, not by physical activities. 


In this stage, children are able to use words, signs, symbols, gestures etc. This is the biggest achievement of this stage. 

For example, children may use the word horse or pictures of a horse, or try to ride a horse while sitting on a pillow, when the horse is not actually presented. the ability to use symbols such as language, pictures, signs, or gestures to represent an object or action through a mental process 

These are called semiotic functions. Like pretending to drink water from an empty cup etc. 

Children's behaviors gradually become elaborate. 

Language development is very rapid in this stage. The language of children aged 2-4 years increases from 200 to 2000 words. 


During this stage, children's symbolic thinking about objects is limited to only one direction. Their arguments develop in only one direction. 

It is difficult for children to think in reverse, that is, to think of the steps of a task from end to beginning, such as two plus two is four, they can think this, but it is difficult to think that two less than four will be two. 

Therefore, reversible thinking is difficult for children at this stage, for example, during conservation, the child cannot think that if the amount of water in different types of vessels is equal, if we pour water from a wide vessel into a long vessel. Can think of putting in the pot.


Conservation means that the number, mass and weight of an object are not affected by the change in its form.

For example, if ten toffees are placed side by side or dastur or placed in rows or circular but in all the forms the number of toffees will remain the same.  


According to Piaget, children in this stage are able to focus their attention on only one argument. 

For example, during the task of conserving water with a glass, children are able to pay attention only to the height of the water in the glass. 

They do not pay attention to more than one argument in a situation during that time, which is also called Decentering. Therefore, in this stage the child's thinking remains confined to the direct sensory experience of the environment.


During the pre-operational stage, the child's thinking is egocentric.

That is, for the child all the experiences around him are the same as his own experiences. 

For example, if two-year-old Sneha is afraid of rats, then according to her, all children of her age are afraid of rats. 

In this stage, children are limited to their own attitudes, feelings and reactions. This is the reason that children at this age do not understand that the straight arm of the person standing in front of them is not in the same direction as their own.


Categorization of objects into categories and sub-categories is difficult for pre-operational children. 

For example, if a child is shown 16 flowers, of which 12 are red and 4 are blue, and is asked whether the red flower is more or less, the child may not think that the red and the blue flowers are in a larger category of flowers. 

Some Children's pretend play becomes more complex during the preoperational stage. They play role of mother and father, pretend to be madam and teach children during social dramatic games with other children. 

Concrete Operational Stage (7-11 years) 


In the concrete-active stage, children are able to understand the logical stability present in the environment. They come to know that despite the change in shape or size, some characteristics of the objects remain same or unchanged and we can see this change even by following the steps from end to beginning.

According to Piaget, children at this stage are able to improve in solving conservation problems. Coming to this stage, three main aspects of logic develop. 


First, if something is added or subtracted from a thing, it remains the same even if its external form is changed. This is called Identity. The second is compensation

That is, if there is a change in one direction then there will be a change in the other direction as well like if the glass is thin then the height of the water will increase.

Third, Reversibility means that children can mentally think of a change from the final to the initial stage. For example, if water is poured from a wide mouthed vessel to a tall mouthed vessel, they are able to predict the level of height of the water.


In this stage, the ability to classify children develops. Children can group things on the basis of a characteristic like cock, ostrich etc. all come under the category of bird. 

They can arrange the objects in order from smallest to largest and also from largest to smallest, which is called seriation. 

For example, if Ram is taller than Shyam and Shyam is taller than Hina, then Ram is taller than Hina.

At this stage, a complex and complete structure of the child's thinking develops along with the cognitive features of classification, preservation, sequencing, reversal, etc.

One limitation of this stage is that the child's thinking is limited to concrete situations or physical reality. The child can apply logic only in concrete situations. 

They are unable to think about imaginary and abstract problems. Also, they cannot think of situations in which multiple verbs are used at once. The development of their characteristics occurs later.

Formal Operational Stage (above age 11)


During this stage, children develop abstract operations and they can use many actions at the same time. 

It is not necessary that the situation about which the child is thinking has been experienced in the past. He can understand the situation only through imagination.

For example, what would happen if all the farmers gave up farming? Hypothetical-based deductive logical thinking develops in the child at this stage. 

It is a method of problem solving in which the child identifies all the factors of the problem. Then analyzes each solution using the method of deduction. 


In this stage, they are also able to use the method of induction, in which first specific situations are observed and then general conclusions and principles are made.

Children understand that everyone has different thoughts, attitudes, feelings and preferences. 

They start judging their thoughts in comparison to others. 

Children of this stage also start taking interest in scientific fiction novels. 

Children are able to choose the ideal option from all the options by the method of deduction.

They start taking interest in politics because they can imagine an ideal society. You can choose your own future. 


According to Piaget, most adults are able to think abstract operations only in certain areas in which they are interested or experienced. 

It is not necessary that they should be able to think abstractly in every field. It is also a matter of debate whether all children reach the abstract activation stage. 

The first three stages are found to be common in all children due to their visible presence. But the fourth stage is not directly present and observable because it is based on induction-deduction method and abstract operations. 

Therefore, it is not fair to say that all individuals reach Piaget's final stage of cognitive development in their lifetime.