MCAT Mnemonics

MCAT Mnemonics: Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development

“Some People Can Fly” – a mnemonic for the four stages of Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development: sensorimotor, pre operational, concrete operational, and formal operational.

Full Transcription

In today’s episode of MCAT Mnemonic Monday, we’re going to go over a psych social mnemonic on Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development.

There are four stages. The first stage is the sensorimotor stage from ages 0 to 2. During this stage, children will learn about the world by using their senses and motor behavior. Something important that children will develop during the stage as object permanence. Before a child has developed object permanence, if you put a toy in front of them and then cover it with a blanket, they will think that the toy has disappeared. However, after a child has developed object permanence, if you cover a toy with a blanket, the child will reach for the toy under the blanket because they realize that the toy is still there.

The second stage is the pre-operational stage from ages 2 though 7. During this stage, children are imaginative and will often engage in pretend play. A child, for example, might run around the room saying that they’re flying on a plane and their arms are the wings of the plane. At this stage, their logic is still pre-operational. So if you ask them certain questions, they’ll give you the incorrect response.

For example, if you have a glass of water with a large diameter, with some volume of water, if you pour that water into another glass with a more narrow diameter and ask them what happens to the water as it gets poured from one glass to the other glass, the child is going to say that when it’s been poured into the narrow glass, that there is now more water because the water has reached a higher level.

The next stage is the concrete operational stage. This is from ages 7 through 11. At this stage, the children are able to do those transformations and understand them that the children in the pre operational stage weren’t able to do. However, at this stage, the children are able to reason, but only using concrete events that they had experience with.

For example, if you tell them a hammer can be used to break a glass window. If someone strikes a window with a hammer, what happens? A child is able to respond. Oh, the window is going to break. If you ask the children to think abstractly, they won’t be able to do it. For example, if you tell them a father can break a hammer, what happens if someone strikes a glass window with a feather? The child is going to say, oh, nothing’s gonna happen. Feathers are soft. Why would the window break? So that’s the concrete operational stage.

The last stage is the formal operational stage, which is from ages 12 and up. At this stage, children are able to think abstractly. So if you tell a child that a feather can break a window and then ask them, will the window break when someone strikes it with a feather, they will be able to say Yes.

OK, so these are the four stages, sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete, operational and formal operational. The mnemonic to remember these four stages is: Some People Can fly.

So you can see sensorimotor, pre operational, concrete operational, and formal operational and some people can fly.

All right. So that the mnemonic for you. And remember, if you find these videos helpful, please make sure to hit the like button and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more content.

Ken Tao

Ken is nationally recognized as a premier MCAT mind. He has worked with thousands of undergraduate students as a graduate teaching assistant and MCAT instructor/tutor for the Princeton Review. At Princeton Review, Ken was the only tutor certified in all subjects, was one of the highest rated MCAT tutors ever and was a teacher trainer. Additionally, Ken worked to found Magoosh's MCAT division. He has written content for dozen's of MCAT books and guides. He is now the Director of MCAT at MedSchoolCoach

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