Piaget's Genetic Epistemology Theory

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Genetic Epistemology is the study of the origins of knowledge according to Piaget.


Jean Piaget (1936) was the first psychologist to study cognitive development. In the Genetic Epistemology theory, Piaget explains how humans develop cognitively from birth throughout life. He broke this down into four stages: Sensorimotor stage, Preoperational stage, Concrete Operational stage, and the Formal Operational stage.

Sensorimotor Stage- this stage is from birth through age 2. There are 6 substages within this stage. The first substage, reflexes, takes place during the first month after birth. The infants’ behaviors reflect the few reflexes we learn first. For example, if you put a pacifier by an infant’s mouth, the reaction would be
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Children begin to use language, memory, and imagination in a bigger way. This is when children begin to engage in make believe activities such as playing house and playing teacher. Piaget developed what is known as the Three Mountain Task, which is focused on egocentrism. Egocentrism is a stage in a child’s development characterized by lack of awareness that other people’s points of view differ from his own (Piaget 1952). Piaget’s test began with a child being shown a 3-d model of three mountains. They were all different sizes and colors. One mountain had a cross, one had snow, and one had a house. After the child explored the model, a doll was introduced. The doll is placed looking at the model from a different position than the child’s. The child is then asked what the doll can see, and answers by choosing one picture from a range of them each showing the mountains from a different view. Piaget’s results showed that four year olds almost always chose the picture that represented what they could see only. Six year olds frequently chose a picture that was different from their view, but rarely chose the doll’s view. Only seven and eight year olds chose the picture that showed the doll’s point of view. Piaget also discovered two substages in this stage of development. The first substage is symbolic function, which takes place from ages 2-4. During symbolic function, children are able to formulate designs of objects that are not present. Children also believe in animism, the belief that inanimate objects are capable of actions, and have lifelike qualities. The second substage is intuitive thought, which takes place from ages 4-7. During this stage, children become very curious and ask many questions to the people around them. This is the stage of centration and conservation. Centration is the act of focusing all attention on one characteristic instead of spreading focus throughout several characteristics. Conservation

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