Running Head: Piaget’s Theory 1
Piaget’s Theory
“Intelligence is what you use when you don't know what to do” (Piaget)
Ashley D. Peters
Florida Gulf Coast University
Running Head: Piaget’s Theory
Jean Piaget was born in Neuchatel, Switzerland on August 9, 1896. His father was a
professor at the University of Neuchatel. Piaget was a studious child and developed an
interest in the natural sciences. At the age of eleven his notes on a rare part albino sparrow
were published. That was just the first of many articles of his that would be published. He
helped with classifying mollusks at the Natural History Museum in Neuchatel, which led to
his interest in studying the shellfish. At the age of fifteen he had gained recognition by
European zoologists for his publications on mollusks. He was forced to keep his young age
a secret when submitting articles because many people felt he lacked credibility. (Notable
Biographies, 2011). When he was 15 his articles led to a job offer at the history museum in
Geneva, Switzerland. He studied zoology and philosophy at the University of Neuchatel and
received his Doctorate in Zoology in 1918. (Notable Biographies, 2011).
He later became interested in psychology and epistemology, which is the study of
knowledge. He began working at two psychological labs in Zurich, Switzerland under the
direction of Carl Jung and Eugene Bleuler who introduced him to psychoanalysis, which is
the study of mental processes (Bio. True Story, 2010). He then moved to Paris and studied
at the Sorbonne. After graduating he began teaching at Grange-Aux-Belles Street School
with Alfred Binet who had created the Binet intelligence test. (Wikipedia, 2011). It was
here that Piaget noticed that young children make mistakes on the test that older children
and adults do not. (Wikipedia, 2011). This is what led to Piaget to develop the theory
named after him.
Running Head: Piaget’s Theory 3
Piaget’s theory states that there are four stages of development: Sensorimotor stage,
Preoperational, Concrete operational, and Formal operational. The Sensorimotor stage is
from birth to the age of two during which the child uses his/her five senses to discover the
world. This stage is broken down in to six sub stages: Simple reflexes, first habits and
primary circular reactions, secondary circular reactions, coordination of secondary circular
reactions and tertiary circular reactions, novelty, and curiosity, and internalization of
schemes. The second stage called Preoperational is from ages 2-7 years. Concrete
operational stage is the third stage and occurs in ages 7-11 years. The fourth and final stage
of Piaget’s theory is Formal operational stage and is ages 11-16 years old. Along with the
stages Piaget also wanted to find a new way research methods were done. (Wikipedia,
2011). He worked on his theory throughout his lifetime, publishing many books and
articles on his observations.
Piaget married in 1923 to Valentine Chatenay and they had three children. Piaget
studied his children from childbirth on and continued to work on his theory. (Wikipedia,
2011). Piaget received honorary degrees from many distinguished institutes such as
Harvard, University of Brazil, Pennsylvania, Cambridge, and Yale just to name a few
(Wikipedia, 2011). His influence is strongest on early education and moral education
(Wikipedia, 2011). Jean Piaget died on September 17, 1980 at the age of 84. He has
published hundreds of article and over fifty books. (Notable Biographies, 2011).
Running Head: Piaget’s Theory
Bio. True Story, (2010). Jean Piaget Biography. Encyclopedia britannica, inc. Retrieved
August 30, 2011, from
Notable Biographies, (2011). Jean Piaget Biography. Encyclopedia of world biography.
Retrieved August 30, 2011, from
Wikipedia, Initials. (2011, August 29). Jean Piaget. Retrieved from