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PIAGETS THEORY OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT


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Introduction:
Jean Piaget is a well known philosopher of psychology. He performed many experiments and contributed a lot in the field of psychology. The present project is about his theory of psychological developments. The first part of the project presents an outline of his theory while the second is concerned with argumentative analysis of the theory.

A. Piagets Theory of Developmental Psychology


Piagets theory of psychological development is also known as cognitive development theory and developmental stages theory. It describes various stages through which a child develops from birth till maturity. Here is the description of those stages. 1. Sensory Motor Stage (from birth to 2 years) Sensory motor is the first of the four stages in child development. This stage occupies first two years of a childs life. In this stage the infants corresponds with the external world mainly through physical stimuli like seening and hearing. Infant gets knowledge of the world using senses like touch and vision. At the beginning of this stage an infant shows reflexive actions while at the end he exhibits symbolic actions.

Salient features of this stage are 1. Knowledge of the world is limited at this stage. It is based on physical experiences. 2. Realization of object permanence is gained. 3. Piaget has divided this stage into six substages; i. Simple reflexive or weak motor response (birth to 6 weeks) Sucking, seeing and grasping are basic reflexive actions at this stage. ii. Primary circular reaction phase (6 weeks to 4 months) Coordination of sensation and two types of schemes; habit and primary circular reacton. Physical sensation is still very important. iii. Secondary circular reaction phase (4 to 8 month) Infants become more object oriented. Repeat actions that bring interesting or pleasure results. Contrary to first phase, intentional behavior develops like conscious grasping of objects. In order to support the idea of secondary circular reaction, he gives example of a child who switches the light on and off repeatedly or bangs his rattle to get amused. iv. Coordination of secondary circular reaction (8 to 12 months) Hand and eye coordination develops at this phase. . v. Tertiary circular reaction, novelty and curiosity (12 to 18 months) Piaget calls the child at this stage as young scientist because he does pseudo experiments to discover new methods For example, a child at this age may try different sounds or actions as a way of getting attention from a caregiver. (Cherry) vi. Early Representational Thought (18-24 months):

In the final phase of sensorimotor an infant begins to develop symbols to represent events or objects in the world. During this time, children begin to move towards understanding the world through mental operations rather than purely through actions. (Cherry) 2. The preoperational stage (Age 2 to 7 years) According to Cherry the main feature of this stage is language development. Egocentrism is another prominent characteristic of this stage. Children are unable to comprehend others point of view. At this stage a child achieves semi logics. During this stage, the child learns to use and to represent objects by images, words, and drawings, however, concrete logic is still beyond their understanding. Children use symbols while playing and pretending. Role play is one such example. Children at this stage are unaware of rules of conservation 3. Concrete operational stage (Age 7 to 11) During this stage a child gains a more clear understanding of mental operations. He or she starts thinking in a logical way. However abstract and hypothetical concepts are difficult for him to understand. According to Piaget, children at this stage are good at the use of inductive logic. Inductive logic involves going from a specific experience to a general principle This stage is also characterized by a loss of egocentric thinking. (Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development) Children at this period of age start understanding conservation and reversibility. They now start realizing that quantity or amount does not change until something is added or removed. A child at this age is capable of categorical labeling and concrete problem solving. They can classify objects into different categories or groups. 4. Formal operational stage (age 11 years till adulthood)

The main feature of this stage is that a child is now capable of formulating hypothesis. He or she can test them systematically. A child during this period starts understanding abstract ideas. Now the child is capable of deductive logical reasoning. In previous stages child uses trial and error method for solving problems but now he solves the problems in logical and systematic way. He begins thinking about the possibilities for the future. B. Analysis of Piagets Theory Howard Gardner one of the supporters of Piaget considers him as a giant of the field According to him Piaget has identified the most important issue in cognitive psychology. The issue is how does the mind develops and he has presented a convincing picture of this development. But the same writer following Piaget for forty years, himself admits that now he has changed his mind about Piagets claims. (Gardner) So, we can say that Piaget, albeit, has a prominent name in the field of developmental psychology, his theory has certain weak points also. There are some points which he ignored or underestimated while presenting his theory of psychological development. We can discuss them from the following perspectives. 1. Individual differences Psychology lays strong emphasis on individual differences while studying human behavior. Although they share many of the features, no two persons can be totally same. Even in same situations they think and react in different ways. Then how can we except from the whole generation to be at the same point of psychological development. We cannot categories them in the fashion, Piaget does. There are certain factors which determine individual differences. Rejection of these factors will surely present an incomplete picture of a childs developing mind.

Piaget treats childrens mind as machines. He thinks their minds as clones, all similar and identical. 2. Gender Differences Piaget does not make any difference between male and female children. However, research indicates that they aren't exactly blank slates, free of gender predispositions, when they are born. (Miller, 2011) They are as different as blue and pink are; as dolls and trucks are. Girls are likely to excel in the skills specific to girls even if they are grown up in opposite way. There physical growth rate is different from that of boys especially during and after concrete operational stage. Pace of developing motor skills is different for boys and girls. Burman in Science Daily says, areas of the brain associated with language work harder in girls than in boys during language tasks, and that boys and girls rely on different parts of the brain when performing these tasks. (NorthwesternUniversity, 2008) Similarly, girls mature into to the stages of puberty and adult faster than boys. So, we can say gender differences are there. Piaget, perhaps was unaware of any such differences. Then how can we regard his theory complete and trustworthy. 3. Racial, Cultural and Geographical differences Piagets experiments regarding the process of psychological development are mainly carried on his own three children. To some extant he also takes subjects from various societies and cultures. Still his subjects cannot be regarded as true representative of whole mankind. Children grown up in different cultures and geographical locations can exhibit different developmental patterns in order to adapt to their local situations. Nature is always not so rigid and Piagets timeline cannot be regarded universal. 4. Effect of Environment

Effect of environment can be studied under two headings; i. ii. Physical Environment Emotional Environment

Physical environment refers to everything which surrounds. A child who is brought up in a comfortable environment where the entire basic requirements are provided will turn out to be a happy child. On the other hand a poorly fed child facing harsh realities of life can become an imbalance personality. What a child would be in future is determined very early long before he is fully grown up adult. It is determined somewhere between sensory motor stage to the last phase of formal operational stage. Piaget ignores the fact that different environments affect different children in different ways. Emotional environment means provision of love, security belongingness, and parents and other elders attitude. A child who is physically abused and is victim of corporal punishment at very early age will turn out to be a shy or hesitant child. It is possible that such a child will be unable to construct hypothesis at formal operation stage or know the rules of conservation at concrete operational stage On the other hand a child who is loved, encouraged and emotionally supported by his parents will be more confident. A satisfied child will be able to shed egocentrism at the preoperational stage but an emotionally unsatisfied child may not be. 5. Scope of the Theory Piagets theory of psychological development is superficial and limited in scope. Human mind is the most complex thing. Every person is a world in its own. Albeit, there are genetic differences, all the children are same at the time of birth. They cry in the same way, their needs are same. However, as they grow older, their individual differences are highlighted. These individual

differences are the part of psychological development. How can we apply Piagets theory to individual differences?

Conclusion
It can be concluded on the basis of above arguments that although, Piaget enjoys international fame in the field of educational psychology; he has contributed a lot in existing knowledge, his theory does not present a comprehensive picture of human psychological development. It is limited in scope and cannot address all the issues related to the subject. It presents only one aspect of human mind.

Bibliography
Cherry, K. (n.d.). Background and key concepts of Piaget Theory. Retrieved Feburary 19, 2012, from About.com Psychology: http://psychology.about.com Gardner, H. (n.d.). The World Question Center. Retrieved Feb 20, 2012, from Edge: http://www.edge.org/q2008/q08_1.html#gardner Miller, C. (2011, March 28). DEVELOPMENTAL DIFFERENCES IN BOYS AND GIRLS. Retrieved Feb 20, 2012, from Livestrong.com: http://www.livestrong.com/article/67999developmental-differences-boys-girls/ NorthwesternUniversity. (2008, March 3). Boys and Girls Brain are different. Gender differences in language appear biological. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development. (n.d.). Retrieved february 19, 2012, from In a nutshell: http://www.telacommunications.com/nutshell/stages.htm