Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Discussing Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

            Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist born in 1896 and died in 1980. He did research for a branch of psychology that he called “Genetic Epistemology”. Genetic, in the sense that Piaget used it, meant “development or emergence”. (Miller, 2002) Epistemology means the study of knowledge. Piaget developed one of the most widely known theories of cognitive development in developmental psychology.

            Piaget was working on the standardization of intelligence tests when he noticed a couple of things. He noted that the children’s incorrect answers were more informative than the correct answers. He concluded that the same mistakes were made by children of approximately the same age. He also noted that the kind of mistakes made by children of one age were qualitively different from the kinds made by other ages. (Hergenhahn & Olson, 2001) Piaget believed that humans learn through stages. He then began research in order to study these stages. His primary method was to first observe children in their natural settings, then form hypotheses about their behavior and finally to devise problems to test his hypotheses. (Wood, Wood, & Boyd, 2011) He and his assistants then asked these problems, as questions, to children to gauge their answers and if they were right or wrong. The result of his research was that human logical thinking did develop in a fixed sequence.  He also concluded that children’s knowledge of the world changed as their cognitive system developed. (Miller, 2002)

           Piaget believed that the way a human’s knowledge developed was through organization. Organization is a mental process that uses specific experiences to make inferences that can be generalized to new experiences. (Wood, Wood, & Boyd, 2011) Piaget also believed that people construct their knowledge by taking an active role in the process. According to Piaget, we develop schemes, or an organized pattern of behavior, as a result of cognitive learning. The main task in cognitive development is the refinement of our schemes. Piaget’s theory also states that we use such processes as assimilation (where new objects, information, experiences are incorporated into what we already know), equilibration (motivates humans to keep a scheme in balance with reality), and accommodation (modifying existing schemes and crating new ones to incorporate new information, events, etc) Piaget’s theory also says that accommodation is not the end of the learning process. Children repeat the processes with each new object until they create a new set of working rules for it.

            Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development consists of four stages: Sensorimotor, Preoperational, Concrete Operational and Formal Operational. A child develops better schemes with each stage. Each stage differs in quantity of information acquired as well as in quality of knowledge and understanding. (Renner, Morrissey, Mae, Feldman, & Majors, 2011) Movement from one stage to the next occurred when an appropriate level of maturation was achieved and when exposed to relevant types of experiences. There were five characteristics of Piaget’s stage theory (Miller, 2002): 1) A stage is a structured whole in a state of equilibrium, 2) Each stage derives from the previous stage, incorporates and transforms that stage and prepares for the next, 3) The stages follow an invariant sequence, 4) Stages are universal, and 5) Each stage includes a coming – into – being and a being.

            The first stage in Piaget’s theory is the sensorimotor stage. This stage is usually from birth until 2 years of age. In this stage, the infant understands the world through their senses and motor activities. During this stage, there is an absence of language. It has been noted that “fantastic development” takes place during this stage. (Malerstein & Ahern, 1979) This stage is broken down into six sub-stages to accommodate this development. (Miller, 2002) The first of these sub-stages is the Modification of Reflexes. During this stage, babies strengthen, generalize and differentiate behaviors that began as reflexes. The second sub – stage is the Primary Circular Reaction stage. This sub – stage has the most widespread and rapid development of schemes. This is because primary circular reactions, or a behavior that focuses on the body rather than an object that is repeated over and over again) now occur. Sub – stage number three is the Secondary Circular Reaction stage. These reactions are centered on the external world rather than the self. The fourth sub – stage is the Coordination of Secondary Schemes stage. This stage includes babies learning the means – end behavior. They begin learning what to do to get what they want. The fifth sub – stage is the Tertiary Circular Reactions stage. In this stage, babies work through trial and error to expand on the means – end behavior. The final stage in the Sensorimotor Stage is the Invention of New Means through Mental Combinations stage. This is the stage where babies begin to use mental symbols to represent objects and events. Some behaviors a baby uses during the sensorimotor stage are sucking, touching, chewing, shaking and manipulating objects. The end of this stage is marked by the infant learning object permanence, the realization that objects and people continue to exist even when they are out of sight.

            The second stage of Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development is the Preoperational Stage. This stage lasts from around age two until age six. During this stage, a child has the ability to mentally represent objects making it possible to construct a scheme for the idea that one thing can stand for another (symbolic or semiotic function). This is a stage that is primarily focused on language. However, during this stage, the ability to use logic is still restricted. They cannot perform mental operations that follow logical rules. Children have difficulty with this because of centration (focusing on one dimension). Children exhibit egocentrism (believing that everyone around them feels, sees, knows what they know). Children also have animistic thinking where they believe that inanimate objects are alive. The Preoperational Stage has two subdivisions. (Hergenhahn & Olson, 2001) They are the Preconceptual Thinking stage and the Period of Intuitive Thought stage. In the Preconceptual Thinking stage is where the basic concept thinking begins forming. In the Period of intuitive Thought stage, a child can solve problems based on intuition rather than by a logic rule. The end of this stage is marked by a shift in play preferences that includes pretending. A child also realizes at the end of this stage that putting on a mask or a costume does not change their identity.

            The third stage of Piaget’s theory is the Concrete Operational Stage. This stage usually lasts from age six to age eleven or twelve. Children gradually develop schemes that allow them to focus on two dimensions at the same time. Children also develop reversibility, the fact that only the appearance of an object has been changed and it can be returned to its original state. They also develop conservation (the knowledge that quantity is unrelated to the arrangement and physical appearance of objects). Children have developed more logic skills in this stage. They can now apply logic to real world problems, but still cannot think logically about hypothetical or abstract problems. According to Piaget, a child moves out of this stage and into the final one when they can respond correctly to hypothetical problems.

            The final stage of Piaget’s theory is the Formal Operational Stage. This stage usually begins around age eleven or twelve and goes beyond. During this stage, humans can construct a scheme that allows them to coordinate present realities with other possible realities. (Wood, Wood, & Boyd, 2011) The logical thinking skills have now expanded to include abstract problems and hypothetical situations. Although this stage occurs during the teen years, some adults rarely use it. (Renner, Morrissey, Mae, Feldman, & Majors, 2011) Some studies say that some individuals never even reach this stage. Most studies reveal that only 40 to 60% of college students and adults fully reach it. Others studies estimate as low as 25%. Some behaviors in this stage include na├»ve idealism (making elaborate plans), adolescent egocentrism (belief that all the focus is on them), imaginary audience (the audience that is always focused on them), and personal fable (believing that they are so unique that no one has ever felt as they have).

            Some believe that there has been no other theory of cognitive development as influential as Piaget’s. His problems have been used by thousands of developmental psychologists around the world. (Wood, Wood, & Boyd, 2011) Although his stages have been challenged, they are an accurate account of age related changes in relation to cognitive development. Piaget himself claims he is one of the primary revisionists of his theory. He made changes over the years in relation to developmental change and equilibration. Although some contemporary theorists claim that stage theories are not accurate in predicting a child’s cognitive behavior, Piaget’s theory is regarded as one of the most comprehensive cognitive development theories.


Courage, M., & Howe, M. (2002). From Infant to Child: The Dynamics of Cognitive Change in the Second Year of Life. Psychological Bulletin , 250 - 277.

Hergenhahn, B., & Olson, M. (2001). Introduction to Theories of Learning (6th ed). Saddle River, NJ: Prentice - Hall, Inc.

Malerstein, A., & Ahern, M. (1979). Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development and Adult Character Structure. American Journal of Psychotherapy , 107-118.

Miller, P. (2002). Theories of Developmental Psychology (4th ed). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.
Renner, T., Morrissey, J., Mae, L., Feldman, R., & Majors, M. (2011). Psychsmart. New York, NY: The McGraw - Hill Companies, Inc.

Wood, S., Wood, E., & Boyd, D. (2011). The World of Psychology (7th ed). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Using someone else's work without giving proper credit, is plagiarism. If you use my work, please reference it. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Steroids and Their Effects

During World War II, it was discovered that malnourished people could gain weight if they took the male hormone, testosterone. The Soviets were the first to use it for their athletes. During this time the disadvantages were the masculinizing effects on women and the enlargement of the prostate gland in men. An American physician then helped develop and test anabolic steroids, which promoted constrictive metabolism.

            Steroids have androgenic, or masculinizing, effects. These include growth of the penis and other male sex glands, deepening of voice and increased facial hair. Steroids also have anabolic effects which include increased muscle mass and strength and increased size of some internal organs. Other anabolic effects are that it controls the distribution of body fat, increases the building of proteins and increases the calcium in the bones.

            Steroids give a user a stimulant - like high. They can also increase aggression. A drawback of steroid use is the psychological dependence. The user feels good while on steroids, but depressed when off of them. A steroid user can also experience mood swings which can interfere with personal and even professional relationships. A major drawback of steroid use is the manic rage that has come to be known as “roid rage”. Roid rage is under discussion as a legitimate effect and bears having research done. Users that suffer from roid rage describe having violent feelings and actions, which are sometimes uncharacteristic of them.

            Steroids also have physical effects. Steroids can increase the amount of work a user can do and increase the intensity of effort. For younger users who have not reached their full height, steroid use can cause premature closing of growth plates thus limiting adult height. Another physical effect is peliosis hepatitis, which is a bloody cyst in the liver. Steroid use can also affect your cardiovascular system. Such effects are atherosclerosis (thickening of artery wall as result of a build – up of fatty materials), high blood pressure and heart disease. Acne, baldness, partial or complete wasting away of the testes and breast enlargement are all possible effects seen by men. Women have a low dose of testosterone naturally. When steroids are taken, some women experience muscle growth, mild acne, decreased breast size, fluid retention, enlargement of the clitoris, facial hair and deepening of voice. Some of these effects are irreversible.

            When weighing the advantages and disadvantages of steroid use, I must admit that I cannot find one single advantage worth all the disadvantages. I think I can handle gaining strength and endurance the old fashioned way rather than risk any of the negative effects.


Hart, C.L. & Ksir, C. (2011). Drugs, Society & Human Behavior (14th ed.). New York, NY: The McGraw – Hill Companies, Inc.

Using someone else's work without giving proper credit, is plagiarism. If you use my work, please reference it.