Concrete Operational Examples

Piaget determined that the concrete operational stage of cognitive development in children starts at around seven years of age and lasts until the child is approximately eleven. During the concrete operational stage, children learn how to manipulate symbols and concrete objects, but they still find abstract or hypothetical concepts more challenging.

There are several concrete operational examples that can be used to illustrate the important stages of development during this stage including:

Transitivity is the ability to understand logical relationships between different things. For example, if Billy is taller than Tom, and Tom is taller than Peter, Billy must be taller than Peter as well.

Seriation is the ability to sort objects according to different criteria. For example, when given a set of objects in different shades of grey, children are able to sort them into order from dark to light, or vice versa.

Reversibility is another key development of the concrete operational stage: this means that children are now aware that actions can be reversed. For example, they are more able to think backwards and reverse the relationships between different mental categories, including solving simple numerical equations. For example: 5+5=x, therefore x-5=5.

Classification allows children to sort and name sets of objects according to different characteristics. For example, children will be able to sort a set of plastic shapes by color, number of sides, or types of shape.

Conservation allows the child to understand there is not necessarily a relationship between the quantity or size of items and the appearance of those items. For example, a lump of clay can be rolled into a long tube, but it is still the same lump of clay.

During the concrete operational stage children are also able to pass the false-belief test and view things from another person’s perspective, even if that person is wrong in their assertion. The classic test used in this instance is called the “Sally-Ann’ task and involves a tale of two dolls, Sally and Ann. The Sally doll has a basket and a marble, and the Ann doll has a box. Sally places her marble in the basket and leaves the room. While she is gone, Ann moves the marble into the box. The child is then asked where Sally would look when she came back. The correct answer is in the basket as this is where Sally left it. The incorrect answer would be the box as even though the child knows the marble is there, Sally cannot know this.

Other concrete operational examples:

According to Piaget’s theory of child development, children become much better at using inductive logic during the concrete operations stage. For example, a child might notice that every dog they see has four legs and therefore they deduce that ALL dogs are must have four legs.

However, children in the concrete operations stage often have a problem with deductive logic. For example, a child can be told two separate pieces of information: people who do not eat meat are vegetarians and their teacher does not eat meat. They could reasonably deduce from those two statements that it is possible that their teacher is therefore a vegetarian, but not all children would be able to make such a leap of deductive logic.

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