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Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

4. Concrete and Formal Operations

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In this module, we think about the concrete and formal operational stages. We begin by discussing the stage of concrete operations (7-11 years) as a stage in which the child is able to imagine alternative perspectives to its own and can perform simple mental operations without, however, being able to think in the abstract. We then discuss how the change from concrete to abstract thinking marks the transition into the stage of formal operations (11+ years) and how this cognitive ability can be measured using Piaget’s pendulum task. Finally, we consider how the type of abstract or scientific thinking that is developed in the formal operational stage is linked to other important aspects of the adolescent personality change, such as the exploration of different social subcultures and the development of deep moral or political thought.


In this course, Dr Richard O’Connor (University of Hull) discusses Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. We begin, in module one, by getting to grips with the key concepts of Piaget’s theory, including his proposed stages of cognitive development, before moving on to discuss each stage in turn. Module two looks at the sensorimotor stage, module three considers the pre-operational stage and module four examines the stages of concrete and formal operations. Finally, in module five, we think about the crucial influence Piaget’s theory of cognitive development has had and continues to have on later research in the field of developmental psychology.


Dr Richard O'Connor is a cognitive developmental psychologist with research interests in cognition from infancy through to adulthood.

Particular areas of interest include theory of mind, representation of objects and actions, and word learning.

Dr O'Connor joined the University of Hull in August 2016, after completing his PhD at the University of Cambridge and teaching positions at Royal Holloway and the University of Oxford.

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APA style

O'Connor, R. (2019, September 27). Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development - Concrete and Formal Operations [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

O'Connor, Richard. "Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development – Concrete and Formal Operations." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 27 Sep 2019,

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