I recently came across a series of article by Bill Harris, director of Centerpointe institute, regarding cognitive development and I found them relatively well-informed. Bill is a new Age Guru, but his articles were relatively well -informed regarding Piaget’s developmental stages; moreover he shares my enthusiasm for developmental stages and believes in extending these stages beyond Piaget’s four. The series is still incomplete and I link to the first two posts in the series.
I liked his linking these stages with the Jean Gebser‘s structure of consciousness and the consequent archaic, magical, mythical, mental and integral stages. I also liked his emphasis on perspective taking as an integral part of developmental process and I have covered that in detail here. However, he doesn’t differentiate between the stages whereby one starts understanding that others have a different viewpoint/ perspective ( social-informational perspective) vis-a-vis when one starts adopting the viewpoint of another (self-reflective perspective). See my earlier post for more on these perspective stages as outlined by Robert Selman.
What I didn’t like though, and found many issues with , was the various pathologies he associated with failures of developmental tasks at each stage. These he seemed to just pull out of his hat , with neither empirical support or strong theoretical foundations. Nevertheless, the series of articles may serve as a good refreshed for Piaget’s theories of cognitive development for readers of this blog.
Cognitive development refers to our ability to perform various types of operations on what we encounter in the world and in our awareness. To live in the world, accomplish various things, and deal with the challenge of being human, we first learn to ”work with” (deal with, manage, get things done with) our body, then with objects, then with symbols, concepts, and ideas, and–if development continues to the highest transpersonal or transrational levels of development–we eventually add ways of dealing with life that are beyond the realm of ideas.
Sensorimotor, Piaget’s first stage (the stage before preoperational), is sometimes referred to as archaic in other naming conventions (in this case, in that of Jean Gebser).
Piaget divided cognitive development into four broad stages: 1) sensorimotor (0-2 years), 2) preoperational, or “preop” (2-7 years), concrete operational, or “conop” (7-11 years), and formal operational, or “formop” (11 years onward). Each of these can be divided into several substages. The ages are averages, and since a person could stop and remain at any level, you can find many adults at each level (though not many are found at the sensorimotor stage).
In this discussion I’ll also use some of the stage names used by Jean Gebser and Ken Wilber: archaic (similar to sensorimotor), magic (similar to early preoperational), magic-mythic (late preoperational), mythic (early concrete operational), mythic-rational (late concrete operational), and rational (formal operational). This is just to confuse you, of course.
In the sensorimotor stage, the infant uses senses and motor abilities to understand the world, beginning at first with reflexes and eventually using complex combinations of sensorimotor skills. At the beginning of this stage, the infant cannot yet distinguish itself from its environment (what some have called an experience of oceanic oneness). This has also been called a state of “primary narcissism,” because the infant is embedded in or undifferentiated from the environment.
I suggest, this should be enough to whet your appetite and that you go to the original source to get additional servings.