Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development - Nature of Intelligence: Operative and Figurative Intelligence - Sensorimotor Stage

The sensorimotor stage is the first of the four stages in cognitive development which "extends from birth to the acquisition of language". "In this stage, infants construct an understanding of the world by coordinating experiences (such as seeing and hearing) with physical, motoric actions. Infants gain knowledge of the world from the physical actions they perform on it. An infant progresses from reflexive, instinctual action at birth to the beginning of symbolic thought toward the end of the stage. Piaget divided the sensorimotor stage into six sub-stages":from birth until the age of two, infants have only senses: vision, hearing, and motor skills, such as grasping, sucking, and stepping.

The first stage is called the Sensorimotor stage (birth to about age 2). In this stage knowledge of the world is limited (but developing) because it’s based on physical interactions/experiences. The child learns that he is separate from his environment and that aspects of his environment continue to exist even though they may be outside the reach of his senses. Behaviors are limited to simple motor responses caused by sensory stimuli. In this stage according to Piaget, the development of object permanence is one of the most important accomplishments at the sensorimotor stage. (Object permanence is a child’s understanding that objects continue to exist even though they cannot be seen or heard).

Sub-Stage Age Description
1 Simple Reflexes Birth-6 weeks "Coordination of sensation and action through reflexive behaviors". Three primary reflexes are described by Piaget: sucking of objects in the mouth, following moving or interesting objects with the eyes, and closing of the hand when an object makes contact with the palm (palmar grasp). Over the first six weeks of life, these reflexes begin to become voluntary actions; for example, the palmar reflex becomes intentional grasping.).
2 First habits and primary circular reactions phase 6 weeks-4 months "Coordination of sensation and two types of schemes: habits (reflex) and primary circular reactions (reproduction of an event that initially occurred by chance). Main focus is still on the infant's body." As an example of this type of reaction, an infant might repeat the motion of passing their hand before their face. Also at this phase, passive reactions, caused by classical or operant conditioning, can begin.
3 Secondary circular reactions phase 4–8 months Development of habits. "Infants become more object-oriented, moving beyond self-preoccupation; repeat actions that bring interesting or pleasurable results." This stage is associated primarily with the development of coordination between vision and prehension. Three new abilities occur at this stage: intentional grasping for a desired object, secondary circular reactions, and differentiations between ends and means. At this stage, infants will intentionally grasp the air in the direction of a desired object, often to the amusement of friends and family. Secondary circular reactions, or the repetition of an action involving an external object begin; for example, moving a switch to turn on a light repeatedly. The differentiation between means and ends also occurs. This is perhaps one of the most important stages of a child's growth as it signifies the dawn of logic.
4 Coordination of secondary circular reactions stages 8–12 months "Coordination of vision and touch--hand-eye coordination; coordination of schemes and intentionality." This stage is associated primarily with the development of logic and the coordination between means and ends. This is an extremely important stage of development, holding what Piaget calls the "first proper intelligence." Also, this stage marks the beginning of goal orientation, the deliberate planning of steps to meet an objective.
5 Tertiary circular reactions, novelty, and curiosity 12–18 months "Infants become intrigued by the many properties of objects and by the many things they can make happen to objects; they experiment with new behavior." This stage is associated primarily with the discovery of new means to meet goals. Piaget describes the child at this juncture as the "young scientist," conducting pseudo-experiments to discover new methods of meeting challenges.
6 Internalization of Schemes 18–24 months "Infants develop the ability to use primitive symbols and form enduring mental representations." This stage is associated primarily with the beginnings of insight, or true creativity. This marks the passage into the preoperational stage.

By the end of the sensorimotor period, objects are both separate from the self and permanent. Object permanence is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be seen, heard, or touched. Acquiring the sense of object permanence is one of the infant's most important accomplishments, according to Piaget.

Read more about this topic:  Piaget's Theory Of Cognitive Development, Nature of Intelligence: Operative and Figurative Intelligence

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