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Cognitive Development, Theory of

The theory of cognitive development developed by Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896–1980) is one of the most influential theories in the fields of educational and developmental psychology. Piaget described his theoretical orientation as one of “genetic epistemology” focused on the emergence, growth, and evolution of knowledge. Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is premised on the notion that thinking and learning are adaptive; our cognitions allow us to adapt to and function effectively within our environments.

Starting from this fundamental premise, Piaget explored the ways in which scientific thinking and reasoning develop, and how our interactions with the physical and social world shape our thinking. Piaget, along with other early psychologists such as William James and B. F. Skinner, contributed to the evolution of psychology as ...

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