The Preoperational stage of Cognitive Development is the second stage in Paiget’s theory of cognitive development. This Piaget’s second stage, the pre-operational stage, starts when the child begins to learn to speak stage two and lasts up until the age of seven. The Paiget’s theory of cognitive development is a comprehensive theory and the development of nature and human intelligence. The theory is named after a Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget. The theory basically deals with the epistemology (study of nature of knowledge) and how human gradually come to use, acquire and construct. The Paiget’s theory is mainly known as development stage theory. Paiget proposed that the preoperational stage emerges around the age of 2 years and conclude at around the age 4 or 5 years. Many debates have been raised for the actual age range at which this stage concludes. This theory has been a great contribute to identify the children’s deficient performance on tasks that is required reversible forms of the mental operation for successful completion. Piaget found that children could not perform conservation tasks properly. Piaget depicted that the preoperational stage primarily in reference of child’s inability to carry out operational thoughts or to understand conservation task which involves the ability to understand forms of knowledge that require reversible forms of mental operations for successful completion.
During the preoperational stage, the child’s cognitive development is dominated by the need to master self and actions are predominantly directed towards self-mastery and as a result, the child lacks the ability to “decenter”. That is the preoperational child lacks the ability to see the things from the others perspective as he or she insist on own point of view. Therefore, the dominant mode of thinking during this stage is referred as egocentric which makes it difficult for the for the preoperational child to coordinate thinking to arrive, though the analysis. This inability of the children could have negative impact on the acquisition of numeracy and literacy skills and it is on the verdict that should the preoperational child be placed within the formal learning situation in school. This difficulty may arise, for example from the inherent nature of formal learning such as the requirement in reading acquisition; simultaneously, to focus both on the phonemic (requiring the understanding of relation between speech sound and letters of the alphabet) and the semantic (or meaning-making) aspects of the reading process. However, an undue emphasis on the cognitive deficiencies of the preoperation stage as was characteristics of the dominant approaches in Piagetian cross-cultural research was unfortunate. Positive developmental milestone are achieved during the preoperational period, and the stage serves as good preparation for acquisition of the operational forms of thinking. To understand this theory an example can be given like the preoperational children acquire the capacity for symbolic representation, of which language development is a crucial component. The preoperational stage is crucial for children to gain mastery of themselves in relation to their growing participation in the world of adults. The preoperational stage is characterized, among other things, by the development of language. Language development during this stage, however, takes a particular form that is consistent with the character of the stage itself. The child acquires language and its symbolic function, but the entire acquisition is oriented toward self-mastery. For example, the preoperational child uses same words acquired during interaction with adults but attaches idiosyncratic meanings to these. Also, the preoperational child may verbalize his or her thoughts as a way of controlling own actions, such as during situations when the child needs to commit something into memory. Meanwhile, the preoperational child plays with toys or objects in his natural environment in creative ways. For example, a brick may be turned into a bus; a piece of wood may become an airplane, etc. In this way, the preoperational child acquires the ability for symbolic representation, important both for language development and social functioning; as well as for learning the various subject matter during formal schooling later on when the child has reached school-going, concrete-operational stage. The significance of egocentric forms of language in particular; and thinking in general which characterize the preoperational stage, has – interestingly, been elaborated outside of the Piagetian framework (see Vygotsky, 1986 for this elaboration).
The major characteristics of the preoperational stages are:
During this stage the peroperational stage, the children become increasingly adept at using symbols, as evidenced by the increase in playing and pretending For example a child is able to use an object to represent something else such as pretending a broom with a horse.
The children can be imaginative, their language becomes more mature, and they develop memories and imagination which allows them to understand the exact difference between the past and future.
Understanding Egocentrism- Paiget used a number of creative and clever techniques to study the mental abilities of children. One of the famous techniques to demonstrate egocentrism involved using a three- dimensional which is involved in three-dimensional display of a mountain scene. Most children are able to do this with little difficulty. Next, children are asked to select a picture showing what someone else would have observed when looking at the mountain from a different viewpoint.
Understanding Conservation Another well-known experiment involves demonstrating a child's understanding of conservation. In one conservation experiment, equal amounts of liquid are poured into two identical containers. The liquid in one container is then poured into a differently shaped cup, such as a tall and thin cup or a short and wide cup. Children are then asked which cup holds the most liquid. Despite seeing that the liquid amounts were equal, children almost always choose the cup that appears fuller.
Criticism- Piaget's focus at this stage of development focused on what children could not do yet. The very concept of egocentrism and conservation are both centered abilities that children have not yet developed they lack the understanding that things look different to other people and that objects can change in appearance while still maintaining the same properties.
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