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Published by: danesaviado6281 on Oct 21, 2009
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, a developmental biologist whodevoted his life to closely observing and recording theintellectual abilities of infants, children and adolescents,concluded that human development involves a series of stages. These stages are known as the
Sensory-Motor Stage, Pre-Operational Stage, Concrete OperationsStage, and the Formal Operations Stage
. During each of these stages new abilities are gained and thus preparethe child for the succeeding levels.
1.Sensory-Motor Stage
 This is the first stage in the development of intelligence (usually 0-2 years of age) and is concernedwith the evolution of those abilities necessary toconstruct and reconstruct objects. During this period,infants are busy discovering relationships between theirbodies and the environment. Researchers havediscovered that infants have relatively well developedsensory abilities. The child relies on seeing, touching,sucking, feeling, and using their senses to learn thingsabout themselves and the environment. Piaget calls thisthe sensory-motor stage because the earlymanifestations of intelligence appear from sensoryperceptions and motor activities.
Object permanence
is the awareness that anobject continues to exist even when it is not in view. Inyoung infants, when a toy is covered by a piece of paper,the infant immediately stops and appears to lose interestin the toy. This child has not yet mastered the concept of object permanence. In older infants, when a toy iscovered the child will actively search for the object,realizing that the object continues to exist.After a child has mastered the concept of objectpermanence, the emergence of 
“directed groping"
,begins to take place. With directed groping, the childbegins to perform motor experiments in order to seewhat will happen. During directed groping, a child willvary his movements to observe how the results willdiffer. The child learns to use new means to achieve anend. The child discovers he can pull objects towardhimself with the aid of a stick or string, or tilt objects toget them through the bars of his playpen. The childbegins to recognize cause-and-effect relationships at thisstage, allowing the development of intentionally. Once achild knows what the effects of his activities will be, hecan intend these effects.
2.Pre-Operational Stage
 This stage (usually 2-7 years old), bears witnessto the elaboration of the symbolic function, those abilitieswhich have to do with representing things. According toLefrancois, 1995, a child will react to all similar objects asthough they are identical. At this time all women are'Mummy' and all men 'Daddy'. While at this level a child'sthought is
, which means the child willmake inferences from one specific to another (Carlson &Buskist, 1997). This leads to a child looking at the moonand reasoning; 'My ball is round, that thing there isround; therefore that thing is a ball'.From the age of about 4 years until 7 mostchildren go through the Intuitive period. This ischaracterized by egocentric, perception-dominated andintuitive thought which is prone to errors in classification(Lefrancois, 1995).Most preoperational thinking is self-centered, oregocentric. According to Piaget, a preoperational childhas difficulty understanding life from any otherperspective than his own. In this time, the child is veryme, myself, and I oriented.
is very apparent in therelationship between two preschool children. Imagine twochildren are playing right next to each other, one playingwith a coloring book and the other with a doll. They aretalking to each other in sequence, but each child iscompletely oblivious to what the other is saying. Julie: "I love my dolly, her name is Tina"Carol: "I'm going to color the sun yellow" Julie: "She has long, curly hair like my auntie"Carol: "Maybe I'll color the trees yellow, too" Julie: "I wonder what Tina's eyes are made of?"Carol: "I lost my orange crayon" Julie: "I know her eyes are made of glass." These types of exchanges are called "collectivemonologues". This type of monologue demonstrates the"egocentrism" of children's thinking in this stage.According to Piaget, egocentrism of the youngchild leads them to believe that everyone thinks as theydo, and that the whole world shares their feelings anddesires. This sense of oneness with the world leads to thechild's assumptions of magic omnipotence. Not only isthe world created for them, they can control it. This leadsto the child believing that nature is alive, andcontrollable. This is a concept of egocentrism known as
, the most characteristic of egocentricthought.Closely related to animism is
, orthe idea that natural phenomena are created by humanbeings, such as the sun is created by a man with amatch. "
" is the child's notion that their ownperspective is objective and absolute. The child thinksfrom one perspective and regards this reality as absolute.Names, for example, are real to the child. The child can'trealize that names are only verbal labels, or conceive theidea that they could have been given a different name.During the pre-operational period, the childbegins to develop the use of symbols (but cannotmanipulate them), and the child is able to use languageand words to represent things not visible. Also, the pre-operational child begins to master
problems.By the age of four children are developing amore complete understanding of concepts and tend tohave stopped reasoning tranductively (Lefrancois, 1995).However their thought is dominated more by perceptionthan logic. This is clearly illustrated by conservationexperiments. Although the child is still unable to think ina truly logical fashion, they may begin to treat objects aspart of a group. The pre-operational child may havedifficulty with
This is because, to a pre-operational child, the division of a parent class intosubclasses destroys the parent group (Lefrancois, 1995).
3.Concrete Operations Stage
During this stage (usually 7-11 years old) thechild acquires internalized actions that permit the child to
do “in his head” what before he would have had toaccomplish through real actions. Children begin to reasonlogically, and organize thoughts coherently. However,they can only think about actual physical objects, andcannot handle abstract reasoning. They have difficultyunderstanding abstract or hypothetical concepts. Thisstage is also characterized by a loss of egocentricthinking.During this stage, the child has the ability tomaster most types of conservation experiments, andbegins to understand reversibility. Conservation is therealization that quantity or amount does not changewhen nothing has been added or taken away from anobject or a collection of objects, despite changes in formor spatial arrangement. The concrete operational stage isalso characterized by the child’s ability to coordinate twodimensions of an object simultaneously, arrangestructures in sequence, and transpose differencesbetween items in a series. The child is capable of concrete problem-solving. Categorical labels such as"number" or "animal" are now available to the child.
Piaget determined that children in the concreteoperational stage were fairly good at the use of inductivelogic. Inductive logic involves going from a specificexperience to a general principle. On the other hand,children at this age have difficulty using deductive logic,which involves using a general principle to determine theoutcome of a specific event.
One of the most important developments in thisstage is an understanding of reversibility, or awarenessthat actions can be reversed. An example of this is beingable to reverse the order of relationships between mentalcategories. For example, a child might be able torecognize that his or her dog is a Labrador, that aLabrador is a dog, and that a dog is an animal.A large portion of the defining characteristics of the stage can be understood in terms of the childovercoming the limits of stage two, known as the pre-operational stage. The pre-operational child has anumber of cognitive barriers which are subsequentlybroken down, and it is important to note that overcomingthese obstacles is not due to gradual improvement inabilities the child already possesses. Rather the changesare genuine qualitative shifts, corresponding to newabilities being acquired. The first, and most discussed, of theselimitations is egocentrism. The pre-operational child hasa “'self-centered' view of the world” (Smith, Cowie andBlades, 2003, p. 399), meaning that she has difficultyunderstanding that other people may see thingsdifferently, and hence hold a differing point of view.Piaget's classic test for egocentrism is the threemountains task (Piaget and Inhelder, 1956), whichconcrete operational thinkers can complete successfully.A second limitation, which is overcome in theconcrete operational stage, is the perceptual dominationof one aspect of a situation. Before the stage begins, thechild's perception of any situation or problem will bedominated by one aspect; this is best illustrated by thefailure of pre-operational children to pass Piaget'sconservation tasks (Piaget and Inhelder, 1974).Perhaps the most important limitation, yet themost difficult to describe and measure, is that of the turnto logical operators. A pre-operational child will usemostly simple, heuristic strategies in problem solving.Once a child reaches the concrete operational stage, theywill be in possession of a completely new set of strategies, allowing problem solving using logical rules. This new ability manifests itself most clearly in children's justifications for their answers. Concrete operationalthinkers will explicitly state their use of logical rules inproblem solving (Harris and Butterworth, 2002). This areaalso indicates the way in which the concrete operationalstage can be negatively defined; although children cannow use logical strategies, these can only be applied toconcrete, immediately present objects. Thinking hasbecome logical, but is not yet abstract. These shifts in the child's thinking lead to anumber of new abilities which are also major, positivelydefined characteristics of the concrete operational stage. The most frequently cited ability is conservation. Nowthat children are no longer perceptually dominated byone aspect of a situation, they can track changes muchmore easily and recognize that some properties of anobject will persevere through change. Conservation isalways gained in the same order, firstly with respect tonumber, followed secondly by weight, and thirdly byvolume.A second new ability gained in the concreteoperational stage is reversibility. This refers to the abilityto mentally trace backwards, and is of enormous help tothe child in both their problem solving and the knowledgethey have of their own problem solving. For the formerthis is because they can see that in a conservation task,for example, the change made could be reversed toregain the original properties. With respect to knowledgeof their own problem solving, they become able toretrace their mental steps, allowing an entirely new levelof reflection.Concrete operational children also gain theability to structure objects hierarchically, known asclassification. This includes the notion of class inclusion,e.g. understanding an object being part of a subsetincluded within a parent set, and is shown on Piaget'sinclusion task, asking children to identify, out of anumber of brown and white wooden beads, whetherthere were more brown beads or wooden beads (Piaget,1965).Seriation is another new ability gained duringthis stage, and refers to the child's ability to order objectswith respect to a common property. A simple example of this would be placing a number of sticks in order of height. An important new ability which develops from theinterplay of both seriation and classification is that of numeration. Whilst pre-operational children are obviouslycapable of counting, it is only during the concreteoperational stage that they become able to applymathematical operators, thanks to their abilities to orderthings in terms of number (seriation) and to splitnumbers into sets and subsets (classification), enablingmore complex multiplication, division and so on.Finally, and also following the development of seriation, is transitive inference. This is the name givento children's ability to compare two objects via anintermediate object. So for instance, one stick could bedeemed to be longer than another by both beingindividually compared to another (third) stick.

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