Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

What are the social implications of reaching the stage of formal operations?

Because of the adolescents’ increased ability for abstract thought—that is, their ability to reason about the possible and the hypothetical instead of just the actual—they become capable of much greater independence than they were at younger ages. Adolescents can plan, consider possible outcomes of their actions, consider alternative solutions to problems, and otherwise negotiate their way in the world far more effectively than younger children can. They can also understand abstract concepts like religious or political belief systems in ways that younger children simply cannot appreciate. It is no coincidence that people first become aware of and interested in political movements in adolescence. While children may parrot their parents’ political beliefs, they cannot truly reason out their own beliefs until they attain some degree of formal operational thought.


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