Medicine & USMLE

Preoperational Cognition

Piaget Cognitive Development
  1. Sensorimotor Cognition
  2. Preoperational Cognition
  3. Concrete Operational Cognition
  4. Formal Operational Cognition


Piaget’s stages of cognitive development describe four sequential stages of cognitive ability. Preoperational is the second stage, seen in young kids ages 2-7 -- which roughly corresponds to preschoolers and kindergarteners. In this stage, children develop their abilities to think symbolically - especially through the use and understanding of language. Children in the preoperational stage exhibit egocentrism, meaning they fail to see things from the perspective of others. They also exhibit animism, assigning human feelings to inanimate objects. It is especially important to be able to remember the ages and characteristics and to be able to compare and contrast them against those of the next stage -- the concrete operational stage.

Key Points

  • Preoperational
    • Period: 2 - 7 years (~preschool aged)
    • Animism / pretend play
    • Language develops throughout (comprehension/speaking)
    • Egocentric (cannot see other people’s perspective)
      • Ex: will say his or her own favorite color when asked mom’s favorite color