Piaget’s theory of cognitive development includes 4 different stages, out of which the preoperational stage is the second one. This stage begins in children when are about 2 years of age. It lasts till they turn about 7 years.
During the preoperational stage, children start to get themselves engaged in symbolic plays and start learning to manipulate different symbols. However, Piaget said that they are yet not able to understand what concrete logic is.
Characteristics of children during the preoperational stage
As this stage of cognitive development is seen in children between the age of 2 to 7, one of the most important hallmarks in this period is language development.
According to Piaget, children do not possess an understanding of concrete logic and are unable to manipulate the information mentally. Therefore, they are unable to understand other people’s points of view. He termed this behavior as egocentrism.
Children during the preoperational stage adapt to use as many symbols as possible as during plays. For instance, the child might consider a broom as a horse and would start to ride on it.
During this stage, role play also plays an important role. They often like to play different roles of either their mom, dad, teacher, sibling, and so many other characters.
What is egocentrism?
Piaget made use of some unique and creative techniques for studying the mental abilities of children. Amongst these techniques for demonstrating egocentrism, one of them involved a 3D display of mountains. People refer to this task as the three mountain task. In this task, children are asked to select a picture that showed the mountain scene they observed.
Most of the children do this task with just a little difficulty. Then, they are asked to choose a picture that shows what some other person would have noticed while they look at the mountain. Almost all the time, children show the same picture that they had selected earlier since they do not have an understanding of a different perspective.
Another group of researchers conducted a similar kind of experiment where children were asked to see a room that was inside a dollhouse. They noticed it carefully and that a toy was hidden in the room behind furniture. Then these children were taken into a bigger sized room which was an exact replica of the previous one.
However, they found it difficult to notice the toy this time since they didn’t understand to look farther behind. Only slightly older children were able to do this task.
What is conservation?
Another known experiment that was conducted involved a child’s understanding when it comes to conservation. It included pouring equal amounts of a liquid in 2 identical containers. The liquid is one of the containers is then poured in some differently shaped container like either a thin, tall, wide or short cup.
Thereafter, the children were to choose the cup that held the most amount of liquid. Despite them seeing that the cups held an equal amount of the liquid, they chose the one that appeared fuller than the rest. Piaget conducted several of these experiments based on the conservation of weight, mass, length, number, quantity, and volume. He found out from the results that very few children possessed an understanding of conservation before they turned 5.