Jean Piaget

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Piaget, Jean

Piaget, Jean (zhäNpyäˈjā), 1896–1980, Swiss psychologist, known for his research in developmental psychology. After receiving a degree in zoology from the Univ. of Neuchâtel (1918), Piaget's interests shifted to psychology. He studied under C. G. Jung and Eugen Bleuler in Zürich, and then in Paris at the Sorbonne. There, he worked with Alfred Binet in the administration of intelligence tests to children. In reviewing the tests, Piaget became interested in the types of mistakes children of various ages were likely to make. After returning to Switzerland in 1921, Piaget began to study intensively the reasoning processes of children at various ages. In 1929, he became professor of child psychology at the Univ. of Geneva, where he remained until his death, also serving as professor of psychology at the Univ. of Lausanne (1937–54). Piaget theorized that cognitive development proceeds in four genetically determined stages that always follow the same sequential order. Although best known for his groundbreaking work in developmental psychology, Piaget wrote on a number of other topics as well. Influenced by the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, Piaget's Structuralism (1970) focused on the applications of dialectics and structuralism in the behavioral sciences. He also attempted a synthesis of physics, biology, psychology, and epistemology, published as Biology and Knowledge (1971). A prolific writer, Piaget's writings also include The Child's Conception of the World (tr. 1929), The Moral Judgment of the Child (tr. 1932), The Language and Thought of the Child (tr. of 3d ed. 1962), Genetic Epistemology (tr. 1970), and The Development of Thought (tr. 1977).


See studies by H. Gardner (1973, repr. 1981), G. Butterworth (1982), S. Sugarman (1987), and M. Chapman (1988).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Piaget, Jean


Born Aug. 9, 1896 in Neuchâtel. Swiss psychologist, founder of genetic epistemology and of an operational concept of the intellect.

Piaget studied at the universities of Neuchâtel, Zürich, and Paris and was a professor at the universities of Neuchâtel (1926–29), Geneva (from 1929), and Lausanne (1937-54). In 1955 he founded the International Center of Genetic Epistemology in Paris. Since 1929 he has been the director of the J.-J. Rousseau Institute in Geneva.

In his early works (1921-25), Piaget regarded the analysis of children’s speech as the key to understanding children’s thought (The Language and Thought of the Child; Russian translation, 1932). He considered the processes of socialization to be leading factors in intellectual development. Later, Piaget asserted that the source of the formation and development of children’s thought lies in their activities with things. He believes that research on the systems of operation of the intellect, which are simultaneously logical, psychological, and social, is fundamental to the problem of the relationship between social activity and the psychological development of the individual.

According to the operational concept of the intellect (The Psychology of Intelligence, 1946), the mind functions and develops as the individual adapts to his environment. Adaptation involves the assimilation, by means of patterns of behavior, of certain material already present in the individual, and the accommodation of these patterns to specific situations. The highest form of equilibrium between subject and object is the formation of “operational structures.” According to Piaget, an operation consists of an “internal action” of the subject that is genetically derived from an external, objective action (internalization) and that is coordinated with other actions in a definite system.

Piaget distinguished and investigated four principal stages of intellectual development: the sensorimotor stage, the preoperational stage, the stage of concrete operations, and the stage of formal operations. On the basis of the operational concept he analyzed many other mental functions, including perception, emotions, and symbolic expression. His psychological and logical views are synthesized in the concept of genetic epistemology, which is based on the principle of the increasing invariability of a subject’s knowledge of an object, under the influence of change in the conditions of experience.

Piaget has made a significant contribution to the psychology of thought, child psychology, and the elaboration of the problems of the relationship between psychology and logic. The defects of his point of view (for example, overestimation of the role of logic in the psychological analysis of thought) have been criticized in Soviet psychology.


La Construction du réel chez l’enfant. Neuchâtel-Paris, 1937.
La Formation du symbole chez l’enfant. Neuchâtel-Paris, 1945.
Le Développement de la notion de temps chez l’enfant. Paris, 1946.
Introduction à l’épistémologie génétique, vols. 1-3. Paris, 1949-50.
Les Mécanismes perceptifs. Paris, 1961.
Etudes sociologiques. Geneva, 1965.
La Psychologie et pédagogie. [Paris, 1969.]
L’Epistémologie génétique. Paris, 1970.
In Russian translation:
Genezis elementarnykh logicheskikh struktur. Moscow, 1963. (With B. Inhelder.)
Izbrannye psikhologicheskie trudy. Moscow, 1969. (References.)
Eksperimental’ naia psikhologiia, fascs. 1–4. Moscow, 1966–73. (Edited with P. Fraisse.)


Sadovskii, V. N., and E. G. Iudin, “Zh. Piazhe—psikholog, logik, filosof.” Voprosy psikhologii, 1966, no. 4.
Flavell, J. H. Geneticheskaia psikhologiia Zh. Piazhe. Moscow, 1967. (Translated from English.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Piaget, Jean, (1963), << La pensee du jeune enfant >>, in Six etudes de psychologie, Paris : Denoel-Folio Essais, 1964 (conference initialement prononcee a l'Institute of Education, Universite de Londres, 1963).
Piaget, Jean, (1964) << Genese et structure en psychologie de l'intelligence >>, in Six etudes de psychologie, Paris : Denoel-Folio Essais.
Piaget, Jean, (1965), Sagesse et illusions de la philosophie, Paris : PUF, 1965.
Piaget, Jean, (1966), La psychologie de l'enfant (avec Barbel Inhelder), Paris : PUF, Quadrige.
Piaget, Jean, (1967), << La conscience >>, in L'aventure humaine : encyclopedie des sciences de l'homme, volume 5, Geneve : Kister ; Paris : La Grange Bateliere, pp.
Piaget, Jean, (1970), L'epistemologie genetique, Paris : PUF, Que sais je ?
Piaget, Jean, (1971), << Inconscient affectif et inconscient cognitif >>, in Problemes de psychologie genetique, Paris : Denoel, 1972 (initialement in Raison presente, no 19, Paris : Editions rationalistes, 1971).