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Cognition and Formal Operations Stage Essay

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Updated: Dec 11th, 2021


Decomposing human personality, it can be stated that the component of cognition can be explained in contexts larger than the commonly known. In that regard, most people will relate cognition merely to intellect, where cognition is “the activity of knowing and the processes through which knowledge is acquired” (Sigelman & Rider, 2009, p. 187). On the other hand, the cognitive component can be related to personality development, representation of one’s capabilities, look, social value, and other factors. After reading chapter seven in Life-Span Human Development by Sigelman and Rider, titled Cognition, the concept that I found most important is related to formal operations, a stage in cognitive development.

The concept

The formal operations stage was identified by Piaget as the stage of cognitive development “around age 11 or 12 and possibly later” (200). The main characteristic of this stage can be seen through the definition of the notion of formal operations, i.e. “mental actions on ideas” (200). Thus, thinking logically, implementing abstract thought, and adopting systemic and scientific approaches in problem-solving are the main attributes of this stage, which mark the acquisition of all the aforementioned characteristics. Additionally, Piaget argued that the peak of cognitive development, in which formal operations are fully mastered, comes between the age of 15 and 18 (205). The formal operations stage leads to several developmental changes, which are associated with the newly acquired capabilities, namely adolescent egocentrism, the imaginary audience phenomenon, personal fable, and other painful aspects of adolescents’ experiences.


The significance of this topic is not related to the formal operations stage in terms of cognitive capabilities, rather the side effects to which formal operations thought lead. In that regard, the concept might serve as an explanation of many teenagers’ problems and complexes. Despite being acknowledged as a peculiar attribute of such stage, there are still many parents who contribute teenagers’ problems to their own upbringing mistakes, the influence of friends, the teenagers themselves, and other external factors. Accordingly, many problematic aspects related to self-confidence, rebellion, and others might be reflected in adulthood, although many of these phenomena should decrease as adolescents get older. Thus, it can be stated that an acknowledgment of the peculiarities of this stage of development is necessary not only as a fact that should be ignored until it ends but also in terms of means that would make this stage bearable for adolescents and as well as their parents.


The implementation of this concept is most evident through various support groups for children and parents as well as in the field of school psychology. The formal operations stage occurs at the age when adolescents are attached to their schools, and thus, many of their needs and problems might as well influence them academically. Accordingly, the principles of the concept might be applied in various family support groups, as the progression of such phenomena s adolescent egocentrism into adulthood is largely caused by insecure relationships between adolescents and their parents. Thus, it can be stated that whether individually, in a support group, or during school psychology visits, such problems should not be ignored.


It can be concluded that the concept of identification of formal operations stage is important. Although many hypotheses might update or oppose Piaget’s theory, it can be stated that its main elements are still applicable. Accordingly, the application of the concept might help acknowledge the problems the adolescents tend to have at this stage.


Sigelman, C. K., & Rider, E. A. (2009). Life-span human development (6th Ed. ed.): Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

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