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The Preoperational Stage of Development: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 Preoperational Stage…
  • 0:43 Egocentric Thinking
  • 1:16 Centration
  • 1:42 Conservation
  • 2:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: April Abilez

April has a MS in counseling and psychology and is currently working on her EdD in Educational Psychology and Technology. She has been teaching psychology courses since October 2013.

In this lesson, you'll learn how young children do not have the cognitive ability to understand changes in perspective or viewpoint. Find out more about the characteristics of this stage of brain development.

The Preoperational Stage of Development

The preoperational stage of development is the second of four stages in Jean Piaget's cognitive development theory. It follows the sensorimotor stage and occurs approximately between the ages of 2 and 7. During this stage, children are learning language and are able to symbolically represent things, places, and events through speech, art, and physical objects. They can think about these things, but it is in a very limited manner. Thinking about a course of action is not yet within their range. During this stage, children's thinking is egocentric and centered, and they cannot yet achieve conservation.

Egocentric Thinking

Piaget defined thinking in this stage as egocentric, meaning that the child believes that everyone sees the world in the same way as he or she does. For example, a child goes to the park with his parents where there is a small tree house big enough for two small children at most. Later that day, he asks his parents if they remember that huge tree house at the park. He assumes that his parents see the tree house as huge because that is his perspective. Even if his parents tried to explain to him that the tree house is little to them, he would not be able to understand this concept because of his egocentric thinking.

Centration & Conservation

Centration or centered-thinking, refers to the way children focus or center on only one part of the whole object or event. For example, if you show a child a ball that is mostly blue with a red circle at the top and bottom and ask her what color it is, she might say blue and completely ignore the red color. Since the ball is mostly blue, the child is focused on that aspect and not even realizing that saying blue and red is an option.

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