Everything About Formal Operational Stage Of Cognitive Development


The last stage of Piaget’s cognitive development theory consists of the formal operational stage. This begins at the age of 12 and lasts until the children turn into adults. During this point of development, their capabilities become more advanced and sophisticated.

Notably, here, children are able to think about theoretical concepts and make use of logic to come with unique solutions for the problems. They develop skills like deductive reasoning, logical thinking and planning systematically while they grow in this stage.

Piaget conducted several tests of formal operational thinking in several ways. Amongst these, two of the tests explored the physical conceptualization and the thought abstraction.

Formal operational stage and conceptualizing balance

Children of varying ages were asked to balance a scale by putting different weights on either side in one task. For balancing the scale, they had to understand different weights and how their distance from the center played an important role.

Children between the age of 3 to 5 were not successful in completing the task since they had little knowledge about balancing. Kids that were of 7 years of age were able to place the weights on either end but didn’t understand that it was essential for them to put weights at a proper distance. The 10-year-old children understood that weight and distance played an important role but didn’t find the proper solution by trial and error.

Consequently, only the children that were 13 years or older were able to use their logic and form the correct hypothesis about placing the weights at the right place for balancing the scale.

Everything About Formal Operational Stage Of Cognitive Development
Everything About Formal Operational Stage Of Cognitive Development

Having a deductive logical thinking

During the formal operational stage, deductive logical reasoning becomes an essential aspect. Piaget noted that it requires the children to make use of general principles in determining the outcomes of a situation.

Abstract thinking in the formal operational stage

In their earlier stages of cognitive development, children think concretely. However, their ability to think beyond the abstract concepts emerge during this stage.

Therefore, they do not rely just on their previous experiences and begin considering the consequences and outcomes of situations. This kind of thinking plays an essential role when it comes to long-term planning.

Solving problems

When in the earlier stages of development, children use the trial and error methods for solving problems. However, in the formal operational stage, they start solving it logically and methodically. They start to plan immediately on the organized approaches to solving a problem.

Everything About Formal Operational Stage Of Cognitive Development
Everything About Formal Operational Stage Of Cognitive Development

Deductive hypothetical reasoning

In this stage, children are able to think about hypothetical and abstract ideas. They start to think about the what-ifs and ask questions. Moreover, they also tend to think about multiple outcomes and solutions for a problem.

Kids in the previous stages are quite particular about their thinking, however, kids in this stage are quite abstract when it comes to thinking. They start to develop metacognition, which means that they are able to gain better awareness and understand their own thinking. Notably, they are also able to respect other’s thoughts and ideas and consider them useful while finding solutions to a problem.

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