The Cognitive Development Theory Of Jean Piaget And The Sociocultural Theory Of Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky

Categories: Comparative Analysis

In the field of psychology, there are many different theories as to how the cognition develops,notably Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development andLev Semyonovich Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory. I believe that both views are correct in some ways, but incorrect in others.

Piaget’s cognitive developmental theory is, as the textbook puts it, that “children actively construct knowledge as they manipulate and explore their world.”(Laura E. Berk( 2/22/2010) Exploring Lifespan Development). I believe Piaget’s theory basically states that people’s minds adapt to make sense of the world.

Piaget is a stage theorist and he proposed that there are four stages people go through as they develop their minds. I generally disagree with the idea of stages and am more partial towards the continuity view due to the idea that a given stage’s age range is too broad of an estimation to apply to something as fluid as the mind.

The first is sensorimotor (birth-2 years) in which “infants ‘think’ by acting on the world with their eyes, ears, hands, and mouth.

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”(Laura E. Berk( 2/22/2010) Exploring Lifespan Development). I thought that this idea to be a very interesting take on development. Exploring the world with their senses seemed to solve the mystery of why people have trouble remembering events during infancy because the memory would be in our senses, and because the senses constantly being used, the early information stored in them would be long gone by the time autobiographical memory kicks in.

The second is preoperational (2-7 years) in which “preschool children use symbols to represent their earlier sensorimotor discoveries… thinking lacks the logic of the two remaining stages.

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”(Laura E. Berk( 2/22/2010) Exploring Lifespan Development). I assumed that the ‘symbols’ mentioned referred to drawings and imagination of young children. The textbook mentions how his theory has been challenged due to his underestimation of children’s, especially during this stage. I agree wholeheartedly with these challengers because I have been amazed about stories I have heard and personal experiences of children in this seemingly vague lump of children 2-7, which quite likely has a large amount of outliers.

The next stage is the concrete operational (7-11 years) during which “Children’s reasoning becomes logical… They organize objects into hierarchies of classes and subclasses. However, children think in a logical, organized fashion only when dealing with concrete information they can perceive directly” (Laura E. Berk( 2/22/2010) Exploring Lifespan Development). The biggest disagreement I have at this stage is that it does not explain the artwork of children. When drawing for instance, a child usually has an idea in their mind of what they want to draw even if what they plan to draw is not in front of them directly. This is another stage in which I believe Piaget underestimated children’s development. I do think that at this stage children are beginning to become easier to reason with logically as they grasp concepts.

The final stage is the formal operational stage (11+ years) in which “the capacity for abstract, systematic thinking enables adolescents, when faced with a problem, to start with a hypothesis, deduce testable inferences, and isolate and combine variables to see qhich inferences are confirmed” (Laura E. Berk ( 2/22/2010) Exploring Lifespan Development) in other words, think like a scientist. I believe this, while obviously catering to the scientific community, is an accurate description of the capacity of an adult brain. However, the idea that an 11 or 12 year old could think in such a strategic manner seems a bit off to me.

In summary, the parts of Piaget’s theory I incorporate into my personal belief is that the sensorimotor stage accurately depicts an infant’s cognitive capacity, the concrete operational stage seems a good age range for being able to communicate logic to a child, (though I do think children at that age can grasp more than just things physically shown to them, such as the moral differences between and wrong) and the formal operational stage describes an accurate representation of mature thinking.

Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory deals with cognitive development in children and proposes that “children begin to communicate with themselves in much the same way they do with others. This greatly enhances their thinking and their ability to control their own behavior” (Laura E. Berk( 2/22/2010) Exploring Lifespan Development). Piaget proposed that cognition led to language while Vygotsky proposed that language led to cognition i.e. ‘thinking aloud’ (J’Lene, George (2/2012) lifespan psychology lecture.) Vygotsky was quite correct and in fact “almost all studies have supported Vygotsky’s perspective.” (Laura E. Berk( 2/22/2010) Exploring Lifespan Development). I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of private speech being tied to cognition; I find it much easier to memorize or deal with difficult information if I coach myself through it verbally using private speech, as I imagine many others do too.

Vygotsky also proposed the idea of the zone of proximal development, “a range of tasks too difficult for the child to do alone but possible with the help of adults and more skilled peers.” (Laura E. Berk( 2/22/2010) Exploring Lifespan Development). A special type of coaching called scaffolding, in which a parent or more experienced peer, adjust support offered during a session to fit the child’s current level of skill or performance, is used to condense the zone of proximal development so that the child learns to do more things on their own. I agree that scaffolding seems a good way to describe how a child learns certain things from their parents.

I don’t quite understand how Vygotsky viewed make-believe play as a zone of proximal development. Only some types such as a boy pretending to be a daddy would be easier to do if there was a father close by to imitate or engage in scaffolding. However, if a girl is pretending to be a fairy or a princess, how would that be difficult for the child to do on her own? If they have a vivid imagination of something, a coach would only change that vision so that it fits with the coach’s own idea of what a fairy or a princess should look like.

An expansion of Vygotsky’s theory I agree with is Barbara Rogoff’s term of guided participation, which refers to “shared endeavors between more expert and less expert participants, without specifying the precise features of communication” (Laura E. Berk( 2/22/2010) Exploring Lifespan Development). I agree because other cultures’ customs of teaching/parenting and deviating circumstances are not covered by the original term of scaffolding. Some of the best learning for children is through involvement with others.

In summary, I the parts of Vygotsky’s theories I incorporate into my personal belief are Vygotsky’s view of private speech is spot on based on my personal experiences and the large amount of evidence mentioned in the textbook. I like Rogoff’s expansion on his ideas because it is more universal across cultures.

Updated: Feb 14, 2024
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The Cognitive Development Theory Of Jean Piaget And The Sociocultural Theory Of Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky. (2024, Feb 14). Retrieved from

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