Jean Piaget has been perhaps the most influential developmental psychologist of the twentieth century. His studies of the growth of intelligence in Swiss school children became the basis of a general theory of intelligence that has since been applied in the fields of psychology, education, anthropology, and primatology, to name just a few. While his theory was based on studies of children, it was always Piaget's intention that the theory be applicable to all sequences of development; human children simply provided the most complete and observable sequence.
The theory is a stage theory. Human children pass through a sequence of stages that is invariant. The rate at which they pass through the stages varies from individual to individual,
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One is the ability to project action into the future and to contemplate the past action (Wynn 1985). Preoperational thinking is limited only to the sequence of actions, one after another. In short, preoperational thinking is only able to consider one variable at a time. A famous example from Piaget's work illustrates this limitation. When clay balls were rolled into sausages, a preoperational child assumed that the amount of clay had increased because the length had increased. She was unable to consider length and thickness simultaneously (Wynn 1985).
Operation intelligence is achieved by adults. Unlike the previous two, we are now able to consider an action and it’s opposite simultaneously. In addition, we are also able to consider multiple variables as opposed to just one. Operational thought consists of two stages, concrete and propositional operations. Both have the same organizational principles, but differ in the realms of application (Wynn 1985). Concrete operations organizes people or things, basically any noun. Propositional, on the other hand, organizes hypothetical entities. A math problem would be a great example of propositional operations.
The Piagetian scheme is of course far more detailed than I’ve previously stated. It has been described for many different kinds of behavior, from