Genetic Epistemology

Genetic epistemology, also known as developmental theory of knowledge, is the study of the origins of knowledge. It posits that humans' cognition mature as they go through the different stages of development. This was developed by Jean Piaget, a Swiss cognitive psychologist. Piaget was particularly interested in how individuals’ intelligence progress overtime. In this view, there are four primary cognitive structures: sensorimotor, pre-operations, concrete operations, and formal operations.

The sensorimotor stage approximately covers zero to two years of age; this is when intelligence is generally expressed and developed through movements and sensations such as kicking, sucking, and touching. The concept of “object permanence” (“insert link”), or the understanding that something that cannot be sensed exists, is often being learned at 9 months.

In the preoperations stage, the child is around three to seven years old. Knowledge is mainly intuitive and magical thinking is often practiced. Also, children at this stage are still egocentric and could not understand that the quantities of objects are not dictated by their shape nor size.

In the third phase, children with the concrete operations structure can already think logically; they can already differentiate fantasy from reality, better see others’ points of view, and understand the concepts of conservation and reversibility. However, intelligence is still largely dependent on concrete concepts. In the most advanced stage, children who are 12-15 years old begin to have a better grasp of abstract information and are capable of executing more complicated cognitive tasks.

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