Born in 1896 in Switzerland, Piaget made many important contributions to both cognitive science and developmental psychology. He died in Switzerland in 1980 (Brainerd, 1996). The important factors he revealed by the development of how we develop the ways that we think included important constructs such as object permanence, developmental stages and conservation ideas (Brainerd, 1996). Piaget’s early life was impacted by his parents. His father was a scholar of history who embraced the scientific approach, while his mother was extremely religious and might today be considered mentally ill (Brainerd, 1996). Piaget became very interested in study in general at a young age, and published his first scientific paper on natural history at the young age of just ten (Brainerd, 1996). Piaget was an early bloomer in terms of academics, as he obtained his undergraduate degree at just eighteen years old, and his Ph.D. just a few years later despite suffering a nervous breakdown which resulted in taking one year away from his studies. Clearly Piaget’s own development had a lifelong impact with regard to his approach to cognitive studies and his scholarly pursuits.
Piaget’s Theoretical Perspectives
Piaget’s theories were developed into constructs and concepts which are still studied in psychology today, including object permanence and stages of development. Object permanence was an important concept because it helped to define that even infants were undergoing a process of intellectual development, and it presented an important milestone which continues to be used today to better understand child development.
Experiments and Findings
Jean Piaget was particularly interested in the development of cognition, and the development of theoretical perspectives was often based on the study of children’s cognition. His studies included “The origins of intelligence in children” (Piaget, 1952) and “The moral judgement of the child” (Piaget, 1965).
In “The origins of intelligence in children” looks at the fundamental aspects of child development which not only contribute to adult cognition, but also the various aspects of intelligence and capacity including how individual’s discover and understand using their body. Intellectual development was therefore seen as a process which begins at birth, and was influenced by typical childhood realities such as games.
Piaget, in “The moral judgement of the child” (1965), observed children playing games in order to better understand how rules were developed and implemented by individuals in the early stages of intellectual development. Children were very accepting of rules providing they were presented by an authority and accepted by the group. This moral pressure was described by Piaget as an important aspect of development. Moral realities became more complex when children were presented with the opportunity to break these imperatives of the rules by telling lies or doing things for which they would be punished. There were therefore stages in moral development of children, which tended to resolve in adult morality. Piaget described his theory as being motivated and inspired by works by sociologists such as Durkheim (Piaget, 1952).
Historical trends in Psychology and other disciplines were important to and supported the direction of Piaget’s research. Child development was becoming important from a sociobiological standpoint, and cognitive science had also become popular as a means of better understanding the human mind.
Piaget made important contributions to cognitive science by looking at the underlying development of cognition. Because of this, future cognitivist scientists such as were able to build on his theories to present approaches to teaching, early child development and interventions. Piaget was able to bring the ideas of these disciplines together in the context of scientific approaches which led to a new understanding of how individuals develop their mind and way of thinking, the importance of the social context and specific milestones in cognitive development.
- Brainerd, C. J. (1996). Piaget: A centennial celebration. Psychological Science, 7(4), 191-195.
- Piaget, J. (1952). The origins of intelligence in children (Vol. 8, No. 5, pp. 18-1952). New York: International Universities Press.
- Piaget, J. (1965). The moral judgment of the child. Free Press.