Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

Piaget’s theory of cognitive development refers to ways in which human intelligence undergoes growth and development. The foundation of the theory is in the inherent nature of knowledge and the ways in which it is obtained, constructed, utilized, and restructured. While the theory is focused on development within children, analysis through Piaget’s approach can also be used to observe the behaviors and knowledge acquisition of adults. The theory is outlined by four major stages of cognitive development, including sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational.

The sensorimotor stage refers to the age during which a child gathers information with their own movements and sensations. It is the primary form of knowledge acquired, such as making the distinction between living and non-living things. During the preoperational stage, children may learn words and a symbolic understanding of concepts in the world. The concrete operational stage is defined by learning logic, organization, and deduction. The formal operational stage allows for building on the foundation of knowledge by understanding more abstract topics.

While Piaget’s theory is not without flaws and can be drastically affected by factors such as social class, and cultural and economic background, certain elements remain visible in the evidence collected throughout a number of studies. For instance, a study that observed the effects of recently introduced children’s museums in Beijing on the cognitive development of children. The results revealed that cognitive development among younger children was especially prominent (Tan et al., 2021). They expressed a number of traits associated with the concrete operational level. These included understanding the logic of past events, conservation, and reasoning concerning the information they were provided. As a theory that presents an insight into a large population of children experiencing cognitive development, the Piaget cognitive development theory has advantageous applications.

Spiritual development can be identified as a process that provides an individual with a belief in essences beyond the material world and can be related to Piaget’s cognitive development. Essentially, the later stages of development, as described by Piaget, allow children to become familiar and experimental with more abstract concepts. Spirituality can be closely associated with philosophy and other similar sociocultural phenomena. Abstract themes can include learning about, making deductions, and using themes and topics concerned with social, cultural, political, and other more nuanced areas. Spirituality is a component that can be similarly found within the scope of formal operational development as children become more acquainted with different perceptions of the world. This is a crucial step in their spiritual development as they are likely to become more proficient in spiritual ideas and weigh them according to their own interpretations and values.

Piaget’s cognitive learning theory is less related to physical development but is deeply ingrained in emotional and social changes. This is because, since the early sensorimotor stage, Piaget explains that children use their senses, and to an extent, their emotions, to navigate the world and their presence among other people. Within the concrete and formal operational stages, society for children extends beyond their family, school, or local community, and their perception of the world becomes more developed. Similarly, by becoming better informed about abstract concepts, they begin to interact with the beliefs of others in more meaningful ways. This has an effect on their emotional maturity and ability to navigate social situations, even in the case of disagreement or hostility.


Tan, F., Gong, X., & Tsung, M. C. (2021). The educational effects of children’s museums on cognitive development: Empirical evidence based on two samples from Beijing. International Journal of Education Research, 106. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development." September 15, 2023.

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PsychologyWriting. "Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development." September 15, 2023.