It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that we are not born with the same mental capacities that we have as adults. The ability to understand the world, to take into account that objects and people still exist even though we cannot see them, to attribute intention and one’s own mind to others, to capture and interpret them. information from the environment, to develop plans to solve or establish hypotheses is something that requires a process of development, maturation and learning, being involved both biology and experience in its emergence.
Many authors have studied how different mental skills and abilities emerge throughout life, with Jean Piaget being one of the most influential and important examples of recent times when it comes to the study of cognitive development. It is of this author that we will speak in this article, make a brief biography of Jean Piaget.
Brief biography of Jean Piaget
Jean William Fritz Piaget Jackson was born on August 9, 1896 in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. She was the eldest son of medieval literature professor Arthur Piaget and Rebecca Jackson, daughter of the owner of the first steel crucible factory in France.
His childhood was spent in an academic environment, acquiring and learning from his father a critical and analytical mindset as well as a taste for writing and a fascination for living things. In contrast, the relationship with his mother was apparently neither easy nor positive.
From his childhood, Piaget showed signs of a certain precocity, showing a keen interest in mechanics, ornithology, molluscs and biology in general. He entered the Latin Institute in his hometown. In high school at the age of ten, he was writing and would send an article on the alpine sparrow to a local history magazine in his locality, This being his first scientific contribution and publication.
After that and during adolescence, it will arouse in young people a great interest in zoology and molluscs. He will contact Paul Gödel, director of the Natural History Museum, with whom he will work as an assistant for four years and after which he will publish various articles on malacology. His publications have earned him a job offer at the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de Genève., Which he could not occupy due to his young age (he had not yet finished his school years).
Years of training
Finished secondary education, Piaget would enter to study at the University of Neuchâtel, receiving the master’s degree in natural sciences and doctoral himself in 1918 with a thesis on malacology.
After that he will decide to study at the University of Zurich, Where for a semester he studied and began to be interested in psychology from the work of Freud or Jung. He started working in the psychology labs in that city and even made two publications about it.
Link with child psychology
In the same year 1919, Piaget moved to Paris as professor of psychology and philosophy at the Sorbonne, knowing and work with a large number of important psychologists such as Binet or Bleuler. He would also go to work in a school run by Binet and Simon as a teacher, in Grange-aux-Belles. There, he would begin to notice differences between the response patterns of adults and children, which would lead him to reflect on the existence of different processes attributable to certain points in evolution.
Soon after, in 1920, he was part of the group that perfected Stern’s intelligence test, also detecting errors consistent with children’s responses. With Theodore Simon, he would begin to explore the intelligence and reasoning of children.
In 1921, he published his first article on intelligence, which earned him an offer to work as director of the Rousseau Institute in Geneva. With this offer, in which something led him to return to his country of origin. From his place he would develop several works in which he worked on reasoning, thought or infantile language. His academic participation continued to grow, he also attended the Congress of Psychoanalysis in Berlin in 1922 (where he personally met Freud).
In 1923 he married Valentine Châteney, having three children with her. His paternity would be important not only on a personal level but also on a professional level.As it would be the observation and analysis of the growth and development of their children which (with the influence of several previous authors and the realization of the various studies mentioned above), would lead him to the elaboration of his work the best known: the cognitive-evolutionary theory in which he will expose the different stages of development and the constructivist theory.
In 1925, he would work as a professor of philosophy at the University of his hometown, despite his studies at the Rousseau Institute. Likewise, with his wife, he observed and analyzed the development of his children. In 1929 he returned to Geneva to work at the university in that city as a professor of psychology and the history of science. He later moved to the University of Lausanne. While working as a professor of psychology and sociology, in 1936 he was appointed director of the UNESCO International Bureau of Education. In 1940 he began to study aspects such as perception, working on aspects such as the development of spatial perception.
In 1950, Piaget undertook the development of genetic epistemology, another of his great contributions, in which he worked on cognitive structures and the evolutionary and historical changes of the consciousness-environment relationship. This contribution would lead to the generation of the concept of cognitive schema and his constructivist theory in which he valued the biology-environment relationship in the formation of thought.
Five years later, he founded and was appointed director of the International Center for Genetic Epistemology, a position he held until his death. Piaget will receive numerous honorary degrees and doctorates throughout his life, as well as several international prizes for his scientific contributions.
Death and inheritance
Jean Piaget died at the age of 84 on September 16, 1980, in Geneva, then hospitalized for ten days. His death is an event of great importance, being his legacy and his contribution to psychology one of the largest and most relevant of the last century.
His theories on child development have influenced a large number of well-known authors such as Bruner, Bandura, Ausubel or Erikson, and are still valued and taken into account theoretically. We note in particular the importance of his cognitive-evolutionary theory, on the development of cognitive capacities and in which he speaks of the different stages of development. However, this is not the only field in which he has worked but he has also made various contributions in fields such as sociology, philosophy and even biology.
- Cellenieror, G. (1978) Thought, study and anthology of Piaget’s texts. Edicions Península, Barcelona.
- Cortés, MI and Tlaseca, M. (2004). Jean Piaget monograph. National pedagogical university. Mexico, DF