Jean Piaget was born
in Neuchatel, Switzerland on August 9, 1895. His parents were Arthur Piaget
and Rebecca Jackson and he was their eldest child. His father was an English
professor. He took an avid interest in nature when he was young, and collected
many things such as shells. At age 11, he published his first paper in psychology
on his observations of the albino sparrow. At a very young age he also published
several papers on mollusks, which were his favorite subject to study. Several
of these papers were mistaken for papers written by an adult. Piaget was
encouraged by his mother to attend religious school but he found religion
and philosophy to be very childish. He then became interested in and studied
the science of psychology. (Boeree, 2002)
After he graduated
from high school, Piaget went to the University of Neuchatel to study psychology.
He became sickly because he worked and studied harder than he should have.
Because of this sickness, he had to take a year off from school. In 1918
he received his doctorate in psychology and the taught psychology and philosophy
in Paris. Piaget got married in 1923 to Valentine Chatenay, one of his coworkers.
They had a daughter in 1925, a second in 1927, and a son in 1931. Their children
became a focus of study for Piaget and Chatenay. (A Short Biography of Jean
· 1923 – Married Valentine
Chatenay, one of his coworkers.
· 1925 – First daughter was
· 1927 – Second daughter was
· 1931 – Son was born, Laurent.
· September 16, 1980 – Died
in Geneva. (A Short Biography of Jean Piaget, 2002)
· 1919 – After receiving his
doctorate in science from Neuchatel, he went on to teach psychology and philosophy
at the Sorbonne in Paris and he also did research on intelligence testing
· 1921 – His first article
on intelligence was published in the Journal de Psychologie, and he also
taught at the Institut J.J. Rousseau in Geneva.
· 1929 – Worked as the director
of the Bureau International Office de l’Education
· 1940 – Became chair of the
Experimental Psychology department, director of the psychology laboratory,
and president of the Swiss Society of Psychology.
· 1952 – Became a professor
at the Sorbonne.
· 1955 – Created the International
Center for Genetic Epistemology
· 1956 – Created the school
of Social Sciences at the University of Geneva.
· 1969- Became the first European
psychologist to receive the APA’s Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award.
(A Short Biography of Jean Piaget, 2002)
Piaget’s contributions to Psychology:
Piaget made many
contributions to psychology. He was very interested in thought and thinking
processes. This interest caused him to study what he called “genetic epistemology.”
This is the study of the development of knowledge. He was most interested
in children and how their thinking changes and how they learn as they grow
older. The word he used for learning was adaptation. As he studied children,
Piaget realized that there were stages that the children went through in
the process of learning. This became Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory,
which was the most important and influential of his contributions. (Boeree,
His theory on
cognitive development inspired a lot more research on children to be done.
He said that children actively gain knowledge and that their cognitive development
takes place in a series of 4 stages. (Berk, 1999)
· Stage 1 – Sensorimotor
– takes place from birth to 2 years. Infants use their eyes, ears, and
hands to figure out the world around them. This stage involves both
skills as simple as reflexes and complex sensorimotor skills. The child uses
senses and motor skills to help them to learn and understand the world. They
are also able to use mental representation, which means that they are able
to picture an object in their mind even after the object has been taken out
of their line of sight. (Berk, 1999)
· Stage 2 – Preoperational
– takes place from age 2-7 years. Children use symbols to explain things.
Language and make-believe take place. The child is able to use symbols to
represent things. Words and pictures can be used to represent real objects
that are not in their line of sight. In this stage, the child also is able
to understand the differences between past, present, and future. However,
the child is still very egocentric and is unable to see things from another
person’s point of view. (Berk, 1999)
· Stage 3 – Concrete Operational
– takes place from age 7-11 years. Children develop logical reasoning.
They can organize and categorize things but still are not capable of abstract
thinking. The child is able to manipulate symbols in order to solve problems.
They begin to understand the idea of conservation, which means that a liquid
remains the same volume even if it is poured into a different size container.
However, the child’s thinking is still very concrete and they are unable
to think in abstract terms in order to understand complex problems. (Berk,
· Stage 4 – Formal Operational
– takes place from age 11 on. Abstract thinking begins
in this stage. Adolescents are capable of things such as advanced mathematics.
They begin to be able to apply the new logic abilities learned in the previous
stage to more concrete problems and situations. They become capable of abstract
reasoning and hypothetical thinking. They are also able to evaluate problems
very systematically in order to solve the problem in the best way possible.
They are also capable of developing a experiment in order to test out hypotheses.
The formal operational stage is sometimes not reached by every child. Not
ever culture sees the importance of abstract reasoning. (Berk, 1999)