Medicine & USMLE

Formal Operational Cognition

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


The Formal Operational stage is the fourth and last of Piaget’s stages of cognitive development. Individuals reach it around the age of twelve, and then remain in the stage through adulthood. So as the final stage, it has the oldest age range of the four stages. The formal operational stage is distinguished by the development of abstract thought. That is, the ability to think hypothetically, metaphorically, or in any other way that is not grounded in physical objects.

Key Points

  • Formal Operational
    • Period: 12 years - older
    • Can think hypothetically and abstractly
    • Understands consequences and moral reasoning