The Science of Mind and Behaviour

In this stage children develop an operation which is a mental structure, which is basically an action performed mentally, that contains compensation, identity and reversibility. According to Piaget in this stage a child begins to establish the concept of conservation, meaning they realise that change in shape does not affect the quantity. For instance, unlike children in the preoperational stage, a child will be able to mentally pour milk back and forth between glasses of different shapes and sizes. This means that they have cognitively developed as they were unable to do this is the previous stage. There is evidence for organized, logical thought. However they can only perform mental actions given concrete materials or by manipulating objects. In this stage a child will be able to complete a task that involved multiple classification and order objects in logical sequence.

Formal Operational Stage: This stage usually takes place from the age of 11-15. Within this stage of development the adolescent reasoning expands from the concrete operational stage, which is mostly concerned with manipulating things that involves actual experience. As the child’s reasoning expands they start to develop abstract thinking which involves imaging realities and symbols. The Formal in the Operational Stage refers to the ability to follow the form of an argument without reference to its particular content. As a child approaches adolescents they start to manipulate ideas or propositions and can reason using the basis of verbal statements.

At this stage of development adolescents have the ability to think hypothetically, this involves thinking about situations they have not actually experienced before, they can even think about thinks that nobody has ever experienced before. For instance Dworetzky (1981) noted that if you asked formal operational individuals what it would be like if people had tails, they might tell you:
In comparison, a concrete operational child may answer the same question by saying,’ do not be silly, or tell you where on the body a tail might be or how funny it would look. This proves that a concrete operational child shows its dependence upon what has actually been seen. This proves that a formal operational person can therefore, deal with possibilities and not just with actualities.

According to Piaget’s theory adolescents have also developed the ability to experiment and search systematically and methodically in order to find the solution to a problem. Adolescents are able to consider all the possible combinations of factors likely to have an effect and by careful reasoning they are able to get rid of the irrelevant ones. This is proved in the experiment with the four beakers (Inhelder and Piaget, 1956) refer to R. Gross (1997) pg 645.

From my research, l have come to the conclusion that the majority of Piaget’s demonstrations are significant because they give evidence to support his view that children do go through stages of development. This is seen in the demonstration where babies lack object permanence but as they get older and reach a certain stage they gradually begin to achieve object permanence. However many researchers such as Karen Waynn(1992) have criticised Piaget for underestimating the abilities of young children. According to the findings of her experiment adding and removing objects she came to the conclusion that when objects where added or removed the baby showed a longer or shorter concentration span. This shows that infants are smarter than Piaget appreciated.

Through my research into this subject I have realized that although Piaget’s ideas about children’s cognitive development implies a view of the child as a largely independent, isolated individual, thus excluding the contribution of other people to the child’s cognitive development. In my opinion l believe not only does nature take part in cognitive development, nurture also takes part. For example being the oldest sibling l have been able to influenced the developmental stages of my younger siblings, and l have notice that children cognitive development is influenced by others and their surroundings. I am more in agreement with Bruner and Vygotsky who dismiss Piaget’s ‘cognitive individualist’ view by stressing the social nature of knowledge and thought.


Wynn K. (2000) Child Development , Bibliography Gross R. (1999) Psychology, The Science of Mind and Behaviour, London: Hodder & Stoughton. Myers D. G. (2007) Psychology Eight Edition, New York: Worth Publishers. Wyatt K. (2000) Child Development,

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