Jean Piaget is a well-known psychologist. He gained popularity and recognition for setting up a theory of stages of cognitive development. The first stage of cognitive development is a sensorimotor stage that lasts from birth till approximately two years. During this stage, the child does not recognize the ideas that are too abstract such as that something is cold or the idea of falling. Generally speaking, at this age, kids do not grasp the idea of fear.
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This stage is followed by a preoperational stage that lasts till approximately seven years old. It is characterized by the start of recognizing the symbols and putting them together to represent the things that surround them. The third stage is known as the concrete operational stage. Covering a period of 7 to 12 years, it is the stage of cognitive development during which the kids “comprehend ideas like weight, amount, and speed … [and] understand causal relationships, though not necessarily explain the reasoning behind them” (Sharp par. 7-8). Finally, there is the formal operative stage that comes after the kid is approximately 12 years of age, and this is when the child is considered to think logically and recognize abstract ideas (Feldman 184).
The stage of cognitive development we are interested in is the concrete operational stage. I am lucky to have a nephew that is why finding a kid for experiments was not a complicated task. My nephew, let us call him Ronny, is seven years old. He lives with his parents and an elder sister who is 12 years old. Ronny is an active little boy interested in gaining new knowledge so that it was an easy task to talk him into the experiments. It was even easier to have Ronny’s parents’ permission as I tempted them with an evening free from kids.
I decided to get started with the traditional Piaget’s experiment with two glasses of liquid. I decided to take orange juice to draw my nephew’s attention. As required by the classical experiment, I took two glasses, low and thick, and poured exactly the same amount of juice to each of them. I assured Ronny that the glasses and the amount of liquid in them were equal (“The Conservation Experiments” par. 2-3). Then, I took another glass, high and narrow, and emptied one of the first ones into it. When I asked my nephew what glass contained more juice, he pointed to the taller one and explained his decision by the higher level of juice in it.
The second classical Piagetian test is the experiment with two rows of coins. In the first case, I made to equal rows of coins. As they consisted of the identical number of coins, Ronny easily named the right answer. For the second part of the experiment, I spread one row and asked my nephew in which row there were more coins. This time, Ronny as well answered correctly.
Because my nephew made a mistake in the first experiment, I thought that I should conduct one more test so that I have the most relevant information about the achievement of concrete operations. I decided to test Ronny’s ability to think logically. I started with telling him that if I hit the glass with the hammer, I would break. Then I asked him what would happen to the glass if his father hit it with the hammer. Ronny answered me that it would break but when I asked him to explain why he shrugged in response. The next question was asking my nephew what would happen to the glass if his mother hit it with a sheet of paper. The answer was the same as Ronny believed that hitting a glass with anything would lead to its breaking.
Bearing in mind the results of the experiment, what I can tell about my nephew’s ability to achieve concrete operations is that he was right in 50 percent of the cases. It means that he is not a concrete operations child yet, but such an outcome can be explained by his age, as he is only seven years old. The test with the glasses of juice, it demonstrated the lack of knowledge about the concept of conservation, i.e. “two equal quantities remain equal even if the appearance of one is changed, as long as nothing is added or subtracted” (Hockenbury and Hockenbury 11).
In the case of coins, my nephew demonstrated the ability to focus on one thing, the number of coins in the rows, and ignore others, space between the coins (McLeod par. 4). In the third experiment, Ronny showed the lack of ability to reason the things behind particular events even though he tried to think logically (Asokan et al. 293). When I explained to my nephew where he was wrong he assured me that he understood his mistakes, nevertheless, I would like to conduct similar tests in some time so that I am sure that he did.
What I have learned from this test is that there is a certain logic in the Piagetian experiments and dividing development into stages. Together with that, I am strongly inclined to believe that if I ask Ronny to take a similar test in few years when he turns 9 or 10, he will answer most of my questions correct especially given that I explained to him where he made mistakes.
Asokan, Sharath, Sharmila Surendran, Sureetha Asokan and Sivakumar Nuvvula. ”Relevance of Piaget’s Cognitive Principles Among 4-7 Years Old Children: A Descriptive Cross-Sectional Study.” Journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry 32.4 (2014): 292-6. Print.
Feldman, David Henry. “Piaget’s Stages: The Unfinished Symphony of Cognitive Development.” New Ideas in Psychology 22.3 (2004): 175-231. Print.
Hockenbury, Don and Sandra Hockenbury. Psychology. 2nd ed. 2000. New York, United States: Worth Publishers. Print.
McLeod, Saul. Preoperational Stage. 2015. Web.
Sharp, Gwen. Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development: Experiments with Kids. 2009. Web.
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The Conservation Experiments. n.d. Web.