Piaget's Sensorimotor Stage of Development: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Piaget's Stages
  • 0:57 Sensorimotor Stage
  • 1:37 Sub-Stages
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica McCallister

Jessica has a Doctorate degree in Social Work

Piaget's sensorimotor stage of development is discussed in this lesson. You'll also analyze the sub-stages of this type of development and look through examples to assist your understanding.

Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development

Psychologist Jean Piaget proposed that humans experience four stages of cognitive, or mental, development, starting from the day they are born all the way through adulthood. The first stage of their development is referred to as the sensorimotor stage. This stage begins at birth and lasts through 24 months of age.

After an infant has reached the age of 24 months, he or she moves into the pre-operational stage, which is from 24 months old through the age of 7. When the child reaches the age of 7, he or she enters the concrete operational stage, which spans from 7 to 12 years old. When a child hits the age of adolescence, he or she moves into the final stage of development, known as the formal operational stage, which spans adolescence through adulthood.

In this lesson, we will focus on that first stage known as the sensorimotor stage.

Sensorimotor Stage of Development

When a baby is born, he or she starts developing both physically and cognitively. Physical skills include crawling, grasping, and pulling, as well as general physical growth. However, as babies develop cognitive skills, they start thinking about their behaviors and reacting to different stimuli such as noises, movement, and emotions. This is what defines the sensorimotor stage.

For example, a baby might giggle or smile because he or she perceived something as funny or interesting. Giggling or smiling is an example of a reaction induced by cognitive development, so it would fall under the sensorimotor stage. To further understand the sensorimotor stage, let's look at each of its sub-stages.

Sub-Stages: Development & Example

The sensorimotor stage of development can be broken down into six additional sub-stages including simple reflexes, primary circular reactions, secondary circular reactions, coordination of reactions, tertiary circular reactions, and early representational thought. Let's take a brief look at each of these sub-stages, along with some examples to assist in your understanding of each.

The first sub-stage of sensorimotor development includes simple reflexes. A reflex is an involuntary reaction that happens automatically without much thought. For example, a baby might be startled by a clapping sound or loud thud on the floor and make a short jolting body movement. The baby will demonstrate these reflexes as he or she continues to grow for the first six weeks of life.

The second sub-stage of sensorimotor development is primary circular reactions. A primary circular reaction occurs at around one to four months of age and might include when a baby brings his thumb to his mouth to suck on. Babies begin to associate the back and forth movement of their hand to their mouth or face and slowly realize that they have the ability to repeat the movement.

The third stage of sensorimotor development is secondary circular reactions. This sub-stage usually occurs when the baby reaches around four months of age and may continue through eight months of age. When babies are in this sub-stage of development, they begin to realize that objects that drop from view are no longer there. For example, this is the sub-stage in which parents start to play peek-a-boo. The baby thinks that if his or her parents disappear out of sight, they are no longer there. However, when the parent returns into sight, the baby is surprised by the instant return and reacts in a pleasurable way by smiling, giggling, or wiggling. This is the beginning of the baby's use of logic.

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