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Infant Competence in The Piaget’s Stage Theory Essay

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Updated: Apr 18th, 2019


In psychology, acquisition of knowledge is a crucial pillar of human life. Psychologists are concerned in determining the stages of its development. They, also, focus on flexibility of human mind and the ability of acquiring knowledge. Various psychologists and researchers have developed theories that express diverse understanding.

Particularly, the cognitive competence of infants raises a lot of contention. Current psychologists disagree with the old theories relating to infant development. The theories include Piaget’s theory of development. The Piaget’s stage theory has been challenged partially (Ginsburg & Opper 1969). The recent psychologists suggest that the competence of infants is more than Piaget suggested in his theory.

Therefore, they seek to develop and acquire evidence supporting their argument. In this paper, we seek to understand the original understanding relating to infant competence. We shall, also, explore on the challenges that are launched against the early theories.

The exploration will include the examination of the evidence that challengers have developed against the original suggestions. However, we shall start with a brief description of Piaget’s theory forming the basis of the paper.

Piaget’s Theory

Piaget’s theory was originally known as the developmental stage theory. It focuses on the characteristics of knowledge and its gradual acquisition. It is, also, concerned with the structure and utilization of knowledge. Piaget suggested that cognitive development was involved in the progressive process of mind reorganization. It asserts that children understand their environment gradually.

The understanding enables them to identify the differences that exist between their prerequisite knowledge and the environment. It does not pay much attention to language as a pillar of development. In addition, he relates the RNA molecules to mental development without having a firm conclusion of the relationship that exists.

Although researchers have given theoretical explanations relating to RNA concept, they have not produced experimental evidence (Phillips 1975).

It, further, assumes that cognitive development is a smooth process that comprise of four stages. The stages include sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, pre-operatory thought, and formal operational stage. This theory will form the basis of this paper. We shall examine the evidences showing that the development of an infant is more competent that the suggestions made by the Piaget’s theory.

Smooth Advancement

In his theory, Piaget predicts smooth developmental stages of an infant’s mind. However, specialists assert that infant development does not follow a smooth progress. They assert that the stage model is an approximation that does not fit reality perfectly. They emphasize that the development experiences developmental rush.

The rush allows a child to learn some concepts that are predictably represented in later stages with ease. They acquire skills that do not coincide with Piaget’s scale. In fact, there is a lot of evidence on these cases around the world. For example, Akrit Jaswal bestowed this evidence in India.

Akrit Jaswal was born in 1993 in India. Surprisingly, he began speaking at the age of ten months. At the age of five years, he could read Shakespeare’s books. He was allowed bys surgeons to watch surgeries at the age of six years. Consequently, the child performed a successful surgery at the age of seven years.

Since he had the passion of science, he was admitted to Punjab University at the age of twelve years. In fact, he is the youngest child to attend a university in India. He, personally, say that he has many ideas that would solve health problems. Although his case is seemingly extraordinary, it suggests that children are more competitive than the theory suggests.

Collins Carson, also, deviated from the theory of Piaget and portrayed more competence than people expected (Slater & Bremner 2003). At the age of fifteen years he is seeking for a bachelor degree in evolutionary biology. His aim is to acquire a Ph. D at the age of 22 years. In reference to Collins, it is clear that the suggestions pertaining to Piaget’s theory in adolescence stage lacks sense.

Therefore, his case asserts that cognitive development is more competitive than the people would suggest. The two cases, therefore, approve that children are more competitive than the earlier speculations.

Domain Specific

The Piaget’s theory argues on basis that generalizes the domains of development. The competence of children should be based on domain specific arguments (Roberts 2007). It should examine their competence on various fields. Technical experiments have shown that some infants experience fast development in certain domain. On other hand, they might experience a slow development in certain fields that needs different skills.

For example, development differs in field like mathematics, logic, physics, and language. Some students are highly competitive in mathematical advancement. They portray a high cognitive competence than they might appear. For example, male children have a higher rate of cognitive development in technical subjects than female children.

On the other hand, female children experience a high rate of development in languages. In a technical experiment that was done in Kenya, researchers collected the performance of boys in fifty national schools. They considered performance of students with the same age in the K.C.S.E exam.

They found that 86 percent of boys scored above the mean grade in mathematics. In English, only 56 percent scored above the mean grade. For the girls, 88 percent scored more than the mean in English. On the other hand, 53 percent, scored above the mean in mathematics.

The results of the research show that boys develop faster in technical thinking than girls of the same age. They, therefore, have a higher rate than the general expectations. On the other hand, girls have a higher development in reference to humanities and language than it would be for the general view.

In this case, we conclude that infant cognitive development is domain specific rather than domain general. It provides natural and experimental evidence suggesting that the competence of infants is higher than the general appearance. This is concluded because the students sat for the exam at the same age. Therefore, this shown disparity in performance, portraying a difference in cognitive development.

Language and development

Piaget’s theory does not consider the role of language in cognitive development of infants. However, infants have high competence that allows them to use language leading to development. Firstly, language forms the basis of their thoughts. Their thought revolves around what they say. They use language as a tool for developing their thinking capacity (Pinker 2007).

However, people do not perceive their ability to use language in this manner. Language appears passive in cognitive development. It is not considered as a tool of shaping the infants thoughts. When a child talks of breast their thought revolve around the breast. The child, then, starts thinking of breast milk and cry for it. Secondly, it shapes the plane of socialization with other children.

They have the capability to mingle with other children by use of language (Thomson 1975). However, the Piaget’s theory does not consider the acumen of children using language for development. This implies that children have a more cognitive development than it appeared.

In fact, they have a great ability to attain and maintain relations using language. For example, children use certain word referring to their mothers maintains the relationship maintains the relationship. They attach a passive importance to the name and attain the desired respect towards them. On the other hand, they would use a different name for the people they do not respect.

This allows them to determine the relations they should maintain with the people who surround them. Through evidence, it has been found that the children who do not talk have difficulty in creating relationships with others. This is particularly tragic during the early stages of development.

They experience difficulties in keeping memory of those surrounding them. They, also, have it difficult to determine the relations they have towar5d them. In fact, children with a normal oral ability have a better coordination that helps them develop in a faster way than the children who never talk.

As a result, we can conclude that children have a great power of language that they use in development. However, Piaget suggests that language is a vestigial component of development. Therefore, the current predictions are lower than what they are able to do.

Accommodation and Association

In the theory of accommodation Piaget suggests that a child perceive objects in similar ways (Slater & Bremner 2003). They generalize the appearance of the objects and animals. The power to differentiate does not exist. This creates confusion and ignorance. For example, a child may confuse a dog to a cut. In fact, the child might give them the same name.

However, with continued development they understand the difference. This is attributed to the law of association. It increases the power to accommodate new understanding. As a result, the child can differentiate between a cat and a dog. On the same case, a child might confuse between an elder brother and their father. The behavior continues for a notable period of time.

When the child lives with the two people for some time they are able to differentiate the two. However, people might undermine the ability of a child’s mind to expand and accommodate change. They might perceive that the understanding rely on the period of time that the child mingle with the objects or the people.

However, it is important to understand that the children have the capability to expand their reasoning and allow differentiation of characters. Some children have experience a high rate in acquiring differentiation power. This is clear evidence that children have a higher cognitive development capability than we expect.


From the study, we find that Piaget’s theory undermines the possibility of children cognitive development. It assumes that the process it suggests work in a smooth flow. It assumes that the theory does not have barriers and exemptions. It, therefore, disregards an important pillar of psychology. In addition, the theory does not recognize the power of language in development.

It considers it as being vestigial. In this essay we have brought out real cases that show a greater ability of infants in child development. It has portrayed various researches that provide evidence of more cognitive rate of development than in human expectations. Therefore, this paper provides an important examination of the evidences which support the argument.


Ginsburg, H & Opper, S 1969, Piaget’s theory of intellectual development; an introduction. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs.

Phillips, J 1975, The origins of intellect: Piaget’s theory (2d ed.), Freeman, San Francisco.

Pinker, S 2007, The stuff of thought: language as a window into human nature, Viking, New York.

Roberts, M 2007, Integrating the mind domain general versus domain specific processes in higher cognition, Psychology Press, Hove.

Slater, A & Bremner, L 2003, Introduction to developmental psychology, Blackwell Pub, Malden.

Thomson, D1975, Language, Time-Life Books, New York.

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