Essay Example on Piaget's Cognitive Development Theory: Formal Operational Stage

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1107 Words
Date:  2023-04-05

Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget developed a stage theory of cognitive development to illuminate four stages that characterize the development of children, that is, sensorimotor, preoperational stage, concrete, and formal operational period (Bormanaki & Khoshhal, 2017). According to Piaget, the formal operational stage, which starts from age 11 and continues into adulthood, individuals will depict less need to use concrete objects in making their rational judgments (Cole, 2013). Notably, at this stage, adolescents will begin to gain an understanding of abstract principles. Also, adolescents will begin to demonstrate hypothetical-deductive reasoning, where they imagine the possible outcome of a particular decision. Further, at the formal operational stage, an individual will start approaching problems in an organized and systematic way while depicting a departure from depending on trial-and-error.

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Understandably, individuals at the formal operational stage of cognitive development often depict different levels as they transition into adulthood. More imperatively, adolescents at this stage always have a deep understanding of abstract thoughts, which causes them to depict egocentrism (Carey et al., 2015). However, this situation often changes as they assume adult roles, which will consequently enable them to understand the boundaries of their imaginations. More often than not, physiological changes experienced by adolescents make them develop heightened self-focus, and this will result in a situation where they cannot create a distinction between their thoughts and that of others. Piaget observed that this behavior often blurs as one gets older because they will begin to limit their thoughts and self-focus (Olson, 2013). Additionally, adolescents always demonstrate a belief that they are special and unique, which will inevitably make them get immersed in risky behaviors such as substance abuse. However, adults' belief about their invulnerability will decline, and this lends credence to the fact that there are different levels of the formal operational stage of cognitive development (Cowan, 2014).

More significantly, Piaget's final stage is hinged on increased logical, moral, ethical, philosophical, and social thinking as adolescents will begin to embrace abstract reasoning (Lefmann & Combs-Orme, 2013). Despite being at the same stage, the approach taken by adults in solving certain problems will be different from adolescents as they will have various possible solutions at their disposal, given their enhanced hypothetical-deductive reasoning. Equally important, individuals will have increased ability in planning for the future and developing in-depth understanding concerning different hypothetical situations (Turner, 2017). It should be noted that as the individuals in this stage get older, they will begin experiencing a qualitative change in their cognitive development, and more particularly because they have more knowledge and information. Further, a combination of past experiences and adequate information about the world will make older individuals depict improved abstract reasoning compared to adolescents (Bond, 2013). Moreover, adults at this final stage will effectively utilize their experiences and additional information in modifying situations, and consequently developing a new insight about the world.

Furthermore, a systematic approach to solving problems often advances as one gets older as they will tend to infuse increased logical and methodical strategies that are absent in adolescents in the same stage. Also, there is always a difference in which an adolescent and an adult utilize their deductive reasoning in drawing conclusions from abstract concepts (Barrouillet, 2015). Piaget observed that while adolescents at the formal operational stage will develop the capability of thinking about hypothetical issues, adults in the same stage will depict increased pondering of "what-if" situations and better still demonstrate the ability to think about complex solutions to underlying problems (Ghazi & Ullah, 2015). More importantly, the existence of different levels of the formal operational stage is further illuminated by the difference in the ability of adults to utilize their logical view of the world in deriving deductive reasoning. Additionally, adults often leverage their increased exposure to the world in thinking about various variables in a systematic way and formulating different hypotheses. Also, the existence of different levels in this final stage is premised on the fact that as the children grow older, their awareness and understanding concerning their thoughts will be enhanced, which sets them in the path of metacognition (Newcombe, 2013). This enables them to think critically about other people's ideas and thoughts.


In conclusion, individuals at the formal operational stage always demonstrate deductive reasoning that advances as they become older. Further, adolescents at this stage will depart from hinging their thoughts on past experiences and embraces abstract reasoning that enables them to consider multiple possible outcomes. Additionally, this final stage involves improved ability to utilize hypothetical-deductive reasoning in increasing efficiency that limits the possibility of failing in a particular task. However, it should be noted that there is the existence of different levels in the formal operational stage as adults will leverage on their adequate knowledge and information at their disposal, hence guaranteeing them increased abstract reasoning and systematic approach to different problems.


Barrouillet, P. (2015). Theories of cognitive development: From Piaget to today.

Bond, T. G. (2013). Building a theory of formal operational thinking: Inhelder's psychology meets Piaget's epistemology. Working with Piaget: Essays in Honour of Barbel Inhelder, 65.

Bormanaki, H. B., & Khoshhal, Y. (2017). The role of equilibration in Piaget's theory of cognitive development and its implication for receptive skills: A theoretical study. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 8(5), 996-1005.

Carey, S., Zaitchik, D., & Bascandziev, I. (2015). Theories of development: In dialog with Jean Piaget. Developmental Review, 38, 36-54.

Cole, M. (2013). Cognitive development and formal schooling. Learning relationships in the classroom, 2, 31.

Cowan, N. (2014). Working memory underpins cognitive development, learning, and education. Educational psychology review, 26(2), 197-223.

Ghazi, S. R., & Ullah, K. (2015). Concrete operational stage of Piaget's cognitive development theory: An implication in learning general science. Gomal University Journal of Research, 31(1), 78-89.

Lefmann, T., & Combs-Orme, T. (2013). Early brain development for social work practice: Integrating neuroscience with Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 23(5), 640-647.

Newcombe, N. S. (2013). Cognitive development: changing views of cognitive change. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 4(5), 479-491.

Olson, D. R. (2013). Cognitive development: The child's acquisition of diagonality. Psychology Press.

Turner, J. (2017). Cognitive development and education. Routledge.

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