What Is Cognitive Development? (2022)

Cognitive development is the process by which we come to acquire, understand, organize, and learn to use information in various ways. The late Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget was a major figure in the study of cognitive development in children. He believed that it occurs in four stages—sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational.

This article discusses Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, including important concepts and principles.

What Is Cognitive Development? (1)

History of Cognitive Development

In the 1920s, a psychologist named Jean Piaget was given the task of translating English intelligence tests into French. During this process, he observed that children think differently than adults do and have a different view of the world. He began to study children from birth through the teenage years—observing children who were too young to talk, and interviewing older children while he also observed their development.

Paiget published his theory of cognitive development in 1936. This theory is based on the idea that a child’s intelligence changes throughout childhood and cognitive skills are learned as a child grows and interacts with their environment.

Stages of Cognitive Development

Piaget’s theory suggests that cognitive development occurs in four stages as a child ages. These stages are always completed in order, but last longer for some children than others. Each stage builds on the skills learned in the previous stage.

The four stages of cognitive development are:

  • Sensorimotor
  • Preoperational
  • Concrete operational
  • Formal operational

Sensorimotor Stage

The sensorimotor stage begins at birth and lasts until 18 to 24 months of age. During the sensorimotor stage, children are physically exploring their environment and absorbing information through their senses of smell, sight, touch, taste, and sound.

The most important skill gained in the sensorimotor stage is object permanence, which means that the child knows that an object still exists even when they can't see it anymore. For example, if a toy is covered up by a blanket, the child will know the toy is still there and will look for it. Without this skill, the child thinks that the toy has simply disappeared.

Language skills also begin to develop during the sensorimotor stage.

Activities to Try During the Sensorimotor Stage

Appropriate activities to do during the sensorimotor stage include:

  • Play peek-a-boo
  • Read books
  • Provide toys with a variety of textures
  • Sing songs
  • Play with musical instruments
  • Roll a ball back and forth

Preoperational Stage

The preoperational stage of Piaget's theory of cognitive development occurs between ages 2 and 7 years. Early on in this stage, children learn the skill of symbolic representation. This means that an object or word can stand for something else. For example, a child might play "house" with a cardboard box.

At this stage, children assume that other people see the world and experience emotions the same way they do, and their main focus is on themselves. This is called egocentrism.

(Video) Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

Centrism is another characteristic of the preoperational stage. This means that a child is only able to focus on one aspect of a problem or situation. For example, a child might become upset that a friend has more pieces of candy than they do, even if their own pieces are bigger.

During this stage, children will often play next to each other—called parallel play—but not with each other. They also believe that inanimate objects, such as toys, have human lives and feelings.

Activities to Try During the Preoperational Stage

Appropriate activities to do during the preoperational stage include:

  • Play "house" or "school"
  • Build a fort
  • Color
  • Paint
  • Play with Play-Doh
  • Use building blocks
  • Play charades

Concrete Operational Stage

The concrete operational stage occurs between the ages of 7 and 11 years. During this stage, a child develops the ability to think logically and problem-solve but can only apply these skills to objects they can physically see—things that are "concrete."

There are six main concrete operations that develop in this stage. These include:

  • Conservation: This skill means that a child understands that the amount of something or the number of a particular object stays the same, even when it looks different. For example, a cup of milk in a tall glass looks different than the same amount of milk in a short glass—but the amount did not change.
  • Classification: This skill is the ability to sort items by specific classes, such as color, shape, or size.
  • Seriation: This skill involves arranging objects in a series, or a logical order. For example, the child could arrange blocks in order from smallest to largest.
  • Reversibility: This skill is the understanding that a process can be reversed. For example, a balloon can be blown up with air, then deflated back to the way it started.
  • Decentering: This skill allows a child to focus on more than one aspect of a problem or situation at the same time. For example, two candy bars might look the same on the outside, but the child knows that they are different flavors on the inside.
  • Transitivity: This skill provides an understanding of how things relate to each other. For example, if John is older than Susan, and Susan is older than Joey, then John is older than Joey.

Activities to Try During the Concrete Operational Stage

Appropriate activities to do during the concrete operational stage include:

  • Use measuring cups (for example, demonstrate how one cup of water fills two half-cups)
  • Solve simple logic problems
  • Practice basic math
  • Do crossword puzzles
  • Play board games

Formal Operational Stage

The last stage in Piaget's theory of cognitive development occurs during the teenage years into adulthood. During this stage, a person learns abstract thinking and hypothetical problem-solving skills.

Deductive reasoning–or the ability to make a conclusion based on information gained from a person's environment–is also learned in this stage. This means, for example, that a person is able to identify the differences between dogs of various breeds, instead of putting them all in a general category of "dogs."

Activities to Try During the Formal Operational Stage

Appropriate activities to do during the formal operational stage include:

  • Play board games
  • Learn to cook
  • Solve crossword and logic puzzles
  • Explore hobbies
  • Play a musical instrument
  • Read books

Summary

Piaget's theory of cognitive development is based on the belief that a child gains thinking skills in four stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational. These stages roughly correspond to specific ages, from birth to adulthood. Children progress through these stages at different paces, but according to Piaget, they are always completed in order.

(Video) What is Cognitive development?, Explain Cognitive development, Define Cognitive development

A Word From Verywell

Piaget's theory of cognitive development is just one of many different developmental theories in the world of psychology. Even if you don't completely agree with Piaget, his stages of development can provide practical ways for you to encourage your child's cognitive development.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

(Video) The importance of cognitive development

What Is Cognitive Development? (2)

By Aubrey Bailey, PT, DPT, CHT
Aubrey Bailey is a physical therapist and professor of anatomy and physiology with over a decade of experience providing in-person and online education for medical personnel and the general public, specializing in the areas of orthopedic injury, neurologic diseases, developmental disorders, and healthy living.

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(Video) Vygotsky's Theory of Cognitive Development in Social Relationships

FAQs

What is cognitive development answer? ›

Cognitive development means the growth of a child's ability to think and reason. This growth happens differently from ages 6 to 12, and from ages 12 to 18. Children ages 6 to 12 years old develop the ability to think in concrete ways. These are called concrete operations.

Why cognitive development is important in learning? ›

Cognitive skills allow children to understand the relationships between ideas, to grasp the process of cause and effect and to improve their analytical skills. All in all, cognitive skill development not only can benefit your child in the classroom but outside of class as well.

How do you describe your cognitive skills? ›

Cognitive skills are the core skills your brain uses to think, read, learn, remember, reason, and pay attention. Working together, they take incoming information and move it into the bank of knowledge you use every day at school, at work, and in life.

How does cognitive development develop? ›

There are four stages to cognitive information development. They are, reasoning, intelligence, language, and memory. These stages start when the baby is about 18 months old, they play with toys, listen to their parents speak, they watch tv, anything that catches their attention helps build their cognitive development.

What is cognitive development with example? ›

Another example of cognitive development is the neurological development which occurs in the brain. Such development is characterized by the neuroplasticity of the brain, which involves brain repair following injury and the ability of the brain to adapt to new environmental and physiological conditions.

What's meaning of cognitive? ›

1 : of, relating to, being, or involving conscious intellectual activity (such as thinking, reasoning, or remembering) cognitive impairment. 2 : based on or capable of being reduced to empirical factual knowledge. Other Words from cognitive How should you use cognitive?

What is the importance of cognitive? ›

Cognitive skills occupy a vital role in an individual's overall development, as they include some of the brain's core functions such as thinking, reading, learning, retaining information, and paying attention and are used to solve problems, remember tasks and make decisions.

Why is cognitive skills important? ›

Cognitive skills are extremely important to develop during the early years of life as they help your brain think, read, learn, reason, pay attention and remember. These skills help process incoming information and distribute it to the appropriate areas of the brain.

How can I improve my cognitive skills? ›

Small changes may really add up: Making these part of your routine could help you function better.
  1. Take Care of Your Physical Health.
  2. Manage High Blood Pressure.
  3. Eat Healthy Foods.
  4. Be Physically Active.
  5. Keep Your Mind Active.
  6. Stay Connected with Social Activities.
  7. Manage Stress.
  8. Reduce Risks to Cognitive Health.
22 Sept 2022

What is cognitive process of learning? ›

Definition. Cognitive learning is a change in knowledge attributable to experience (Mayer 2011). This definition has three components: (1) learning involves a change, (2) the change is in the learner's knowledge, and (3) the cause of the change is the learner's experience.

How does cognitive ability affect learning? ›

Reasoning ability directly affects academic performance, while selective attention and short-term temporal memory indirectly affect academic performance through reasoning ability. Rohde and Thompson (2007) found that cognitive ability directly predicts academic performance, and the correlation is as high as 0.38.

What is an example of a cognitive ability? ›

An example of a cognitive skill is memory. Memory, whether short-term (15-30 seconds) or long-term, is the ability to recall specific events or details.

What is another way to say cognitive development? ›

“Further study is necessary to elucidate the precise nature of the relationship between media exposure and cognitive development.”
...
What is another word for cognitive?
cerebralmental
psychologicalintellectual
intrapersonalperceptive
rationalthinking
intellectivereasoning
16 more rows

What factors affect cognitive development? ›

The risk factors and interventions influencing cognitive development in children can be divided into three domains: nutrition, environment, and maternal-child interactions.

How do children develop cognitive skills? ›

10 Ideas for a Family Fresh Start: Improve Cognitive Skills
  1. Play Outside. Outdoor playtime has been shown as a particularly effective way to improve cognition in kids. ...
  2. Go on Field Trips. ...
  3. Put on Music. ...
  4. Learn Shapes and Colors. ...
  5. Ask a Lot of Questions. ...
  6. Encourage Help With Chores. ...
  7. Do Art Projects. ...
  8. Look in the Mirror.

Who defined cognitive development? ›

Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development suggests that children move through four different stages of learning. His theory focuses not only on understanding how children acquire knowledge, but also on understanding the nature of intelligence.1 Piaget's stages are: Sensorimotor stage: Birth to 2 years.

What are the main ideas of cognitive development theory? ›

Piaget proposed four major stages of cognitive development, and called them (1) sensorimotor intelligence, (2) preoperational thinking, (3) concrete operational thinking, and (4) formal operational thinking. Each stage is correlated with an age period of childhood, but only approximately.

What is cognitive development activities? ›

Here are some play ideas to support your child's cognitive development: Play simple board games like 'Snakes and ladders' with your child, or simple card games like 'Go fish' or 'Snap'. Read books and tell jokes and riddles. Encourage stacking and building games or play with cardboard boxes.

What is cognitive in a sentence? ›

Cognitive Sentence Examples

The tumor is still growing, which means there is still a chance at cognitive deterioration. Learning how to do something new can have many cognitive benefits. The purpose behind this assignment is to test your cognitive skills. This game is pure cognitive exercise.

How do you say the word cognitive? ›

How To Pronounce Cognitive - YouTube

How do cognitive functions work? ›

The cognitive functions divide into perceiving and judging categories. The perceiving functions (Sensing and Intuition) explain how people receive and absorb information, while the judging functions (Thinking and Feeling) explain how they make decisions.

How can cognitive control be improved? ›

These habits can improve cognitive function and protect against cognitive decline for a lifespan.
  1. Physical Activity. ...
  2. Openness to Experience. ...
  3. Curiosity and Creativity. ...
  4. Social Connections. ...
  5. Mindfulness Meditation. ...
  6. Brain-Training Games. ...
  7. Get Enough Sleep. ...
  8. Reduce Chronic Stress.
12 Mar 2014

What is the meaning of cognitive performance? ›

High cognitive performance or “peak brain performance“ refers to the achievement of optimal and effective functioning of cognitive capabilities and executive functions. Work concentrates on the capabilities that are preserved from any alterations, aiming at achieving optimal performance for each person.

What are the cognitive skills needed for learning? ›

There are 5 primary cognitive skills: reading, learning, remembering, logical reasoning, and paying attention. Each of these can be utilized in a way that helps us become better at learning new skills and developing ourselves.

What are the three important cognitive skills you need to develop? ›

What Are Some Essential Cognitive Skills That Every Student Needs, To Learn Effectively?
  • Attention. ...
  • Working Memory. ...
  • Processing Speed. ...
  • Long-Term Memory. ...
  • Visual Processing. ...
  • Auditory Processing. ...
  • Logic & Reasoning.

How do you use cognitive development in a sentence? ›

Examples of 'cognitive development' in a sentence cognitive development
  1. They measure cognitive development using widely accepted tests. ...
  2. They are just as precious for emotional and cognitive development. ...
  3. Diversity also increases cognitive development, both intellectually and socially.

Is cognitive the same as mental? ›

Cognition is defined as 'the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses. ' At Cambridge Cognition we look at it as the mental processes relating to the input and storage of information and how that information is then used to guide your behavior.

What is the most important factor for cognitive development in children? ›

For a good cognitive development interaction with environment is very necessary which the child does with the help of his mental and motor maturation. They help directly in the development of cognition. ADVERTISEMENTS: The opportunity a child gets to learn affects the cognitive development.

Why is cognitive development important in adolescence? ›

It is the transformation in how your child can think — or cognitive development. Cognitive development is critical in preparing young people to be able to manage complexity, make judgments, and plan for the future. Adolescents whose thinking is well-developed will be successful and prepared to lead us forward.

How can teachers enhance cognitive development in their students? ›

Encouraging problem-solving in the classroom. Making planful choices when arranging the classroom environment. The value and importance of play. Using active music and play experiences to support infant and toddler thinking.

Can cognitive development be trained? ›

Cognitive skill development in children involves learning skills, such as attention, memory and thinking. Genetic makeup is responsible for some cognitive ability, but most cognitive skills are learned and therefore can be improved with proper training.

How do you assess cognitive development? ›

The most common types of tests are:
  1. Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) test. A 10-15 minute test that includes memorizing a short list of words, identifying a picture of an animal, and copying a drawing of a shape or object.
  2. Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE). ...
  3. Mini-Cog.
10 Dec 2020

What is cognitive development in education? ›

Cognitive development means how children think, explore and figure things out. It is the development of knowledge, skills, problem solving and dispositions, which help children to think about and understand the world around them. Brain development is part of cognitive development.

What is cognitive development PDF? ›

Theories of cognitive development seek to explain the dynamic processes through which human minds grow and change from infancy throughout the life span. Cognition refers to capabilities including memory, thinking and reasoning, spatial processing, problem solving, language, and perception.

What is cognitive learning? ›

What is Cognitive Learning? Cognitive learning is an active style of learning that focuses on helping you learn how to maximize your brain's potential. It makes it easier for you to connect new information with existing ideas hence deepening your memory and retention capacity.

What are the 4 stages of cognitive development? ›

Sensorimotor stage (0–2 years old) Preoperational stage (2–7 years old) Concrete operational stage (7–11 years old) Formal operational stage (11 years old through adulthood)

How can I improve my cognitive skills? ›

Small changes may really add up: Making these part of your routine could help you function better.
  1. Take Care of Your Physical Health.
  2. Manage High Blood Pressure.
  3. Eat Healthy Foods.
  4. Be Physically Active.
  5. Keep Your Mind Active.
  6. Stay Connected with Social Activities.
  7. Manage Stress.
  8. Reduce Risks to Cognitive Health.
22 Sept 2022

What are the cognitive development theories? ›

Piaget proposed four major stages of cognitive development, and called them (1) sensorimotor intelligence, (2) preoperational thinking, (3) concrete operational thinking, and (4) formal operational thinking. Each stage is correlated with an age period of childhood, but only approximately.

What is cognitive development according to Piaget? ›

To Piaget, cognitive development was a progressive reorganization of mental processes as a result of biological maturation and environmental experience. Children construct an understanding of the world around them, then experience discrepancies between what they already know and what they discover in their environment.

Who developed the cognitive development theory? ›

Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development suggests that children move through four different stages of learning. His theory focuses not only on understanding how children acquire knowledge, but also on understanding the nature of intelligence.1 Piaget's stages are: Sensorimotor stage: Birth to 2 years.

Why is cognitive important? ›

Cognitive skills are extremely important to develop during the early years of life as they help your brain think, read, learn, reason, pay attention and remember. These skills help process incoming information and distribute it to the appropriate areas of the brain.

Why is cognitive perspective important? ›

The cognitive perspective, operates on the belief that the brain is the most important aspect in relation to the way that an individual behaves or thinks. This perspective states that to understand someone, you must first be able to understand what is happening in their mind.

What is the main idea of cognitive theory? ›

What is the main idea of cognitive learning theory? The main assumption of cognitive theory is that thoughts are the primary determinants of emotions and behavior. The cognitive approach to learning believes that internal mental processes can be scientifically studied.

Which of the following are examples of cognition? ›

Examples of cognitive skills
  • Sustained attention.
  • Selective attention.
  • Divided attention.
  • Long-term memory.
  • Working memory.
  • Logic and reasoning.
  • Auditory processing.
  • Visual processing.

What are the three cognitive theories? ›

There are three important cognitive theories. The three cognitive theories are Piaget's developmental theory, Lev Vygotsky's social cultural cognitive theory, and the information process theory. Piaget believed that children go through four stages of cognitive development in order to be able to understand the world.

What does social cognitive theory state? ›

The theory states that when people observe a model performing a behavior and the consequences of that behavior, they remember the sequence of events and use this information to guide subsequent behaviors.

Videos

1. Piaget's stages of cognitive development | Processing the Environment | MCAT | Khan Academy
(khanacademymedicine)
2. COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT | Meaning | Factors | Characteristics during Infancy Childhood and Adolescence
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3. The Growth of Knowledge: Crash Course Psychology #18
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4. Jean Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development Explained!
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5. Cognitive Development in Early Childhood (Davidson Films, Inc.)
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6. cognitive development,concept of cognitive development, b.ed 1st year,b.ed 2nd year, ctet paper 1& 2
(Babita Gupta Hawks Educational Institute)

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