Understanding Cognitive Development- The Concrete Operational Stage: As part three of our cognitive development series, we will discuss the third stage of Piaget’s theory: the concrete operational stage.
The Concrete Operational Stage
Typically lasting from age 7 to 11, the concrete operational stage marks a major turning point in a child’s cognitive growth. This stage is characterized by a child’s development of logical thought and their ability to apply logic to physical or concrete objects.
Many of the cognitive abilities (i.e. conservation, reversibility, etc.) children lack during the preoperational stage are developed throughout the concrete operational stage. However, children still have difficulty when dealing with hypothetical and abstract ideas and do not develop these skills until the formal operational stage.
In this article, we will discuss several key characteristics unique to Piaget’s concrete operational stage of cognitive development.
During this stage, Piaget found that children made use of inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning is a logical process in which individuals draw broad conclusions from specific observations. For example, a child may notice that whenever they eat peanuts, their throat swells up and their skin becomes red and irritated. Based on these specific observations, the child can make the broad conclusion that they are allergic to peanuts.
Interestingly enough, Piaget found that children of this age had difficulty using deductive reasoning, which is the opposite of inductive reasoning.
Reversibility refers to the idea or awareness that actions can be reversed. During the concrete operational stage, children show an understanding that actions can be undone or returned to their original state, a cognitive skill they lack in previous stages.
As children enter the concrete operational stage, they learn that something remains the same even when it changes in shape or appearance. The most common example of this concept is the experiment in which children were exposed to two identical glasses, both of which contained the same amount of water. When water from one glass was poured into a taller, narrower glass, children aged 7 and above understood that both glasses contained the same amount of liquid, even though they differed in appearance.
Prior to this stage of cognitive development, children have difficulty understanding that others possess their own unique thoughts and perspectives that differ from their own. They transition from an egocentric way of thought and become more sociocentric, taking others unique thoughts and perspectives into consideration.
Keep an eye out for the final article of our cognitive development series, as we will be discussing the formal operational stage of Piaget’s theory.