Short Biography of Jean Piaget
Even as a young boy, Jean Piaget studied his surroundings. At age eleven, he published his first paper about the natural world. As he grew, his interests steered from the world around him to philosophy and later to psychology. With his work in cognitive development, he has laid a lasting foundation that has played significant roles in the fields of education, reasoning, and even artificial intelligence.
Born to a father who was a professor of medieval literature at the University of Neuchatel, he received an excellent education. When he was young, he was encouraged to explore the environment, where he became infatuated with mollusks, birds, and other animals. He studied at his father’s university and received his PhD in natural science. He also did some studying and work at the University of Zurich, in the German-speaking region of Switzerland. Around this time, he became intrigued with the emerging studies of psychoanalysis. His focus began turning from the natural world to the world inside the human mind. As he furthered his own research in the area, fueled by the debates of the time, he decided that what happened in children’s early lives would affect their later cognitive development.
Jean Piaget came up with his theories especially while he worked with Alfred Binet, who was running an all-boys’ school and who was developing his now famous Binet Intelligence Test. Piaget noticed on the results from the exams that the younger children all gave the same wrong answers. He began pondering the possibilities and decided that children and adolescents think differently. Piaget attributed this to stages of cognitive development, or stages of reasoning. He would later theorize that these stages were partially independent of environment – that the development of reasoning occurred in stages that closely correlated with age.
Piaget then simplified his theories to fall into four categories of development. While these were groundbreaking for his time, these cognitive development stages have been found to occur in the order he prescribed. However, the ages at which these stages occur are not exact. He stated, after researching and watching his own children's developments, that the first years are where one learns sensory-motor awareness; objects are real and children have a full experience of the senses. The next stage, from around the age of two to seven, is the development of motor skills. Following, children from the ages of seven to twelve begin to think logically about concrete events. And finally, the formal operational stage is where children begin to develop abstract reasoning. Jean Piaget was able to give psychoanalysis and theory new depths of understanding about the development of reasoning and most importantly, cognition. Nowadays his work is being used to expand the fields of artificial intelligence – where robots will develop cognitive abilities in a similar step-by-step pattern.