Jean Piaget and Cognitive Development TheoryJune 27, 2021
According to Swiss psychologist J. Piaget (1896-1980), who explains cognitive development with biological principles and states that children’s cognitive and personality developments differ from adults, there are also differences in children’s moral thinking power.
While Piaget was developing his theory of moral development, he thought that it was important to learn how children interpret the rules and tried to ground his theory by observing the plays of children, especially his own three children. By asking questions to the children he watched while playing marble, he tried to determine how they formed the rules of their games, how they used these rules and how the children thought. In addition, he also examined the answers he gave to moral issues such as stealing, lying, punishment and justice through the questions he asked children, and stated that children went through important and distinct stages in explaining how they think about moral issues.
According to Piaget, there is no morality in children at the age of 0-6 because there is no concept of rules. He observed that there are no rules in the games of children around the age of two, that children in this age group only play without rules. Children between the ages of two and six are aware of the rules, but they are not aware of the purpose of these rules. For this reason, moral development does not begin until the age of 6, from the preoperational stage, which is one of the cognitive development stages, to the concrete operational stage.
In a study that wanted to determine how children of different ages react to and comment on various moral debates, Piaget told children aged 6-12 the following two stories:
“While Ahmet is in his room, his mother invites him to dinner. But behind the dining room door there are fifteen plates on a chair. Ahmet opens the door to enter the dining room. All the plates fall to the floor and break.”
“One day Onur wants to buy biscuits from the jar when his mother is not at home. Since the jar is high, Onur gets on a chair, drops it while trying to pick it up, and the jar breaks.”
After the stories were told to children of different age groups, which child would say “Ahmet’s or Onur’s?” He is asked to be more naughty. Or “If you were the father, which of these children would you punish more?” Two important conclusions are reached with the answers given to such a question. With two important answers to these questions, Piaget explains moral development in two different periods:
The child tries to explore his environment in order to adapt to his environment. Starting from birth, the child tries to recognize the objects by taking them to his mouth and grasping them with the palms of his hands in order to explore his environment.
In the following years, the child gradually begins to perceive his environment. As a result of his observations, Piaget determined that children in the same age group make different mental mistakes compared to older or younger children. From this point of view, it underlines that children cannot be successful in solving certain problems without gaining certain actions in certain age periods.
Based on his work in this field, his own children’s discovery of new toys, his perspective on the world, and his approach to simple problems, he formed his theory of cognitive development in the following stages:
It is seen that the language develops in the child with the symbolic activities that emerge at the end of the sensory-motor period. We will examine the pre-trade period under two headings:
1. Pre-concept period
In this period, depending on the symbolic activities, imitation beating and imaginary games are beneficial for the child to develop problem-solving skills related to real problems that he may encounter in the future. During this period, the child begins to develop communication skills with these games. Even if the child who has trouble with the concepts of quantity knows how to count, he has difficulty in defining the concepts such as few or many. The most important feature seen in this period is the egocentric thought. Egocentrism is the inability to recognize the perspectives of others, believing that their own views and perspectives are the only perspective. The child sees the whole world from his own point of view. Has difficulty grasping the perspective of others. He is not competent to be aware of the emotions and feelings of others. It is also during this period that children treat some inanimate objects as if they were alive. An example of this situation is that the child goes and beats the table after hitting his head, and thinks that the teddy bear he accidentally hurt will cry.
2. Intuitive period
In this period, when logical thinking does not develop, the situation of explaining events with intuition gains importance. An object-symbol relationship is tried to be established with the symbols developed for the objects. Mental symbols begin to replace real objects. The feature that stands out in this period is the one related to the conservation principle. Conservation principle is that the object is transformed into a different shape.