Assignment: Formal Operational Intelligence

Assignment: Formal Operational Intelligence
Assignment: Formal Operational Intelligence
Assignment: Formal Operational Intelligence
The next stage of development, formal operational intelligence, involves operating on logical classes or forms rather than on concrete objects, which are specific instantiations of logical classes. Piaget considered hypothetico-deductive reasoning to be the hallmark of formal operational thinking. This form of thinking involves the reversal of the direction between reality and possibility: whereas on the level of concrete operations, possibility remains an extension of reality, on the level of formal operations reality is subordinated to possibility. As a consequence, the adolescent can now reason about possibilities. Bärbel Inhelder and Jean Piaget studied the emergence of formal operations by presenting children and adolescents with problems involving concrete material to be manipulated in order to discover scientific laws. For example, the pendulum task involves discovering which of several factors (length of string, weight of object, height of dropping point, or force of push) determines the frequency of the pendulum’s oscillations. These experiments revealed that children differed qualitatively in their approach to scientific problems compared to adolescents. Although children were capable of classifying and cross-classifying an independent variable along one dimension, and of putting these seriations into correspondence with their effects on the dependent variable, they still failed to design systematic experiments, and, as a result, did not supply adequate proof for their statements. By contrast, adolescents formulated hypotheses and tested them systematically by controlling all variables except the one under investigation (isolation of variables) in order to gradually converge on the correct hypothesis.
Piaget recognized that there is more to thinking than logic, but logic and formal operational thinking about possibilities are not separate from social life and are intertwined with adolescents’ construction of a scale of values that underlies their plans as they enter adult society. Thus, affective life, for Piaget, is not separate from cognition.
Structure, Equilibrium and Equilibration
The coordination of operations (interiorized actions) into structures leads to Piaget’s solution to the problems of generativity and rigor of human thought. Generativity of thought is due to the coordinations of actions, resulting in a range of new possibilities. Rigor, or necessity—understanding that an answer is necessarily correct—, follows from the completion of a structure, which then entails logical necessity. For example, a child who fully understands the concept of number knows that 5 plus 7 is necessarily 12. The equilibrium and closure of a structure results from the operations being reversible; every operation, such as addition, can be compensated for by another operation, such as subtraction. Higher forms of knowledge involve more adequate forms of equilibrium. Development is a process leading to increasingly more stable (complete and consistent) forms of equilibrium, and, therefore, development is progressive and it is not mere change. Equilibrium can involve a balance among a child’s own activities (organization) or between the child and the environment (adaptation). Disequilibrium could be cased by gaps or contradictions in knowledge, and equilibration is the process of achieving a new, and often more complete, form of equilibrium following disequilibrium.
Although Piaget’s stage theory is the best known aspect of his work, this has been at the cost of neglecting his theory of equilibration. Perhaps because Piaget was trained as a biologist, it was natural for him to classify children’s thinking into different stages or forms of thought. Yet, for Piaget, this was only the first step in understanding the development of knowledge. The second and more important task was to explain development from one form of thinking to another. This was the goal of Piaget’s theory of equilibration, which brings out his interactive process account of development. Piaget emphasized equilibration as a process rather than equilibrium as a state. Every point of equilibrium is only partial. Piaget argued that equilibration is an essential factor in development, in addition to maturation and experience with the physical and social environment.
Piaget’s later work focused on delineating in more detail the specific processes involved in equilibration. In this work he emphasized the roles of consciousness, affirmation and negation, contradiction, and reflective abstraction. Essentially, Piaget suggested that in the course of their interaction with the environment, and in the context of encountering obstacles to their actions, children become increasingly aware of their knowledge schemes and the coordinations involved in their actions. By reflecting on the coordinations of these actions, children become aware of the coordinatory structure involved in their actions. Reflective abstraction, thus, can be seen as a mechanism that, at each level of knowing, abstracts form (i.e., the coordinatory structure of action) from content and, in turn, projects this form to a higher level. With each new and higher stage, the forms become increasingly abstract. Through the mechanism of reflective abstraction, then, development proceeds by way of successively conceptualizing the forms or structures of knowledge underlying previous knowing levels.

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