Every time you wake up, the human mind performs multiple actions which are complex in nature and therefore is not easily comprehensible. The moment you open your eyes, eat your breakfast, take a bath, go to school until you sleep again at night- cognition is always involved. There are several levels of cognition but the highest form of it is called formal operation thinking- one which is entirely different from other levels of cognition because it is the ultimate tier of the four-fold cognitive stages.
The development of a child is one of the most popular studies of interest in the context of psychology. Many developmental psychologists formulated theories regarding the growth of a child- his intellectual, social, sexual roles and how they advance as the individual ages and progresses. The theories presented by the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget is probably the most influential of all theories. This theory holds that human is incapable of comprehending what the world is until they reach and advances to certain stages of the cognitive development (Kodat, 2000). This “cognitive development theory” clings to the idea that men passes through a four-stage development which is fixed in order and universal to all. The four levels of development are as follows: Sensorimotor Stage, Preoperational Stage, Stage of Concrete Operations, and Stage of Formal operations. These levels of development encompass both the qualitative and quantitative aspect of cognition.
The Formal Operations Stage, being the last and final stage of development, therefore covers a larger age range as compared to the three other stages. It starts from twelve years onwards and therefore, we are covered by this certain stage of development. The Stage of Formal Operations is also a logical and systematic way of thinking, similar to the concrete operations stage. However, the use of knowledge and thinking in the stage of formal operation is more applicable on abstract and hypothetical problems. For example, a person’s educational career is run mostly by utilizing a person’s abstract and hypothetical problem-solving skills.
The hypothetico-deductive reasoning skills of a person are also developed in this stage wherein he suggests the possibilities not just through mere physical fact but also using hypothetical abilities. Therefore, in case I feel that my stomach starts to grumble the way it does when it’s already past lunch time, I need not look at the wall clock to know that it is already time for lunch. This is an example of deductive reasoning by which persons conclude a situation from the generals to the specifics.
Another skill that a person in this stage of development can acquire is the reflective-abstraction. This skill of reflective abstraction is exemplified through the ability of a person to relate objects to certain things. Say for example, I saw a pair of converse shoes, and I relate it to winning and success because based on my experience, the converse shoes I used in my basketball game served as my lucky charm in winning it. Through this ability, a man creates a linkage from something into another thing which is apparently not connected. Through a critical evaluation of that certain thing, a person would be able to relate it something which is unrelated to it before. During this stage, a person already has a clear understanding of different values such as honesty, love, patience and like. He also has the skill to relate these virtues and values into several previously unrelated things.
The acquisition of the skills mentioned earlier would mean that the person has developed and matured in terms of the formal operational stage of Piaget. This however, does not ensure that the person would not be fixated in terms of other aspects because there are also theories which refer social (Erikson), sexual (Freud), and moral (Kohlberg) stages.
The skills and mastery applied in the stage of formal education is obviously different from the activities wherein these skills are not applied that much. Through formal operational thinking, a person does not need much time in analyzing things because he can think abstractly. There would be fewer necessities for physical evidences so that he can conclude his point. The persons in the concrete operational system, say for example, are still limited in terms of thinking abstractly and connecting something from nothing. More than that, in formal operational thinking, human mind becomes remarkable since they can easily maneuver the world without actual touching, manipulating and moving the objects around them. Whereas in earlier stages where formal operation is not applied, the human mind is still limited and still dependent on actual situations from which the conclusion would be drawn.
However, not all persons reach and fulfill this stage of cognition because of several factors such as lack of proper education. In third world countries where technology is not that common, almost no one reaches the stage of formal operations and fixate on the previous stage.
The formal operation stage of thinking is the ultimate goal of man which he needs to reach and fulfill. With the application of this certain type of thinking, man can prove that he has indeed developed and progressed. Also, appliance of this dexterity would make the lives of people easier and more convenient because as explained earlier, the formal operations thinking acquires ideas from the mind through abstract and reflective reasoning. The formulation of this stage has been regarded accurate by most developmental theorists that’s why this is one of the bases of constructing the school curricula. Piaget’s contribution on this field further proved that development of man follows a predictable pattern of stages which are common to all people.
Kodat, Rebecca. (2002). Jean Piaget Theory. Retrieved 1 June 2007 from <http://mi.essortment.com/jeanpiagettheo_rnrn.htm>
Piaget, J. (1983). “Piaget’s theory”. In P. Mussen (ed). Handbook of Child Psychology. 4th edition. Vol. 1. New York: Wiley.