Jean Piaget


Criticisms & Strengths


Underestimation of Children's Intellectual Abilities:

During the 1960's and 1970's, researchers identified shortcomings in Piaget's theory. Critics main argument was that Piaget described tasks with confusing and abstract terms and using overly difficult tasks. Basically Piaget under estimated children's abilities (Wood, 2008). Researchers have found that young children are capable and can succeed on simpler forms of tasks requiring the same skills.

Second, Piaget's theory predicts that thinking within a particular stage would be similar across tasks. For example, all preschool children should perform at the preoperational level in all cognitive tasks.

Third, his effots to teach children developmentally advanced concepts would be unsuccessful. However, researchers have found that in some circumstances, children often learn more advanced concepts with brief instruction. All of this research has led up to the belief that children may be more competent that Piaget gives them credit form, especially in their practical knowledge.

Overlooking Cultural Effects:
Some believe that Piaget overlooked the effects of student's cultural and social groups. It seems as though the stages of development constructed by Piaget are representative of Western society and culture. In his work, scientific thinking and formal operations are presumed worthy levels to be reached by children. However, in other cultures there may be a much higher regard for the basic level of concrete operations (Edwards, Hopgood, Rosenberg, & Rush, 2000).

Unscientific Methods:
According to Edwards et al. (2000) Piaget's work is characterized by: lack of controls, small samples, and absence of statistical analysis in his research. Much of this form of criticism has originated from Empiricism and Logical Positivism, which was extremely popular at the time. However, Piaget was a structuralist and his scientific orientation was very different from tradition research being done at this time in America.

Piaget attempted to identify universal features of cognitive development by observing children in specific situations. He believed that small samples of children and the methods he used were adequate as long as he was able to identify the structres common to all individuals.  However, it is reasonable to question the reliability of Piaget's work.


Although there has been much criticism surrounding Piaget's theory over time, it is probably not very damaging to his basic theory. There has been various substantiated contradictions to suggest that the stages of development are approximate rather than absolute, a point that Piaget himself always maintained. Basically criticisms point out that children's cognitive development is far more complex than Piaget had thought.

Despite the critics, an examination of Piaget's theory shows that his theory is remarkably consistent, coherent, and comprehensive. However, research suggests that Piaget;s system may not reflect the facts accurately. Occasionally, it underestimates the abilities of children while over estimating at other times.

Finally, Piaget's theory has been very influential, impacting psychology and education over the years while also being controversial. He is largely responsible for helping teachers, parents, and childcare workers to become fascinated observers of children's development (Lefrancois, 2006).