Were you able to see other people’s point of view when you were five years old? Did you think hypothetically when you were in primary school? These are some questions related to cognitive development which is defined as «gradual orderly changes by which mental processes become more complex and sophisticated.» Piaget and Vygotsky are the leading scientists who have dealt with cognitive development and have some views on it. However, there are certain differences and convergences between Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development. In this essay, I will write about similar and different points of their cognitive development theories.

The first difference is that «Piaget’s cognitive development is basically a biological one and it largely relies on biological development.» He revealed that all children go through some certain experiences which prepare them for the next cognitive development stage. He did not also take into account the important effects of culture and social interactions which have a profound impact on cognitive development. He ignored that children may have different cognitive abilities according to their cultural assets and social interaction processes.

On the other hand, Vygotsky set forth the sociocultural theory which «emphasizes role in development of cooperative dialogues between children and more knowledgeable members of society.» Vygotsky considers cognitive development as a social activity rather than a biological process. Although natural structure has a role in cognitive development, social processes have more influence on it (Yıldırım, 2009). Interactions with other people play a key role in cognitive development of individuals. According to Vygotsky, children manage to solve certain kinds of problems with the help of advanced and skilled people, which he calls it as ‘zone of proximal development. ’ Vygotsky also strongly articulated that interactions and collaborations are crucial factors that support cognitive development.

Another difference is that Vygotsky attributes much importance to language acquisition activity. He claimed that language is one of the key factors in cognitive development while Piaget thought that «language does not qualitatively raise the level of intellectual functioning.» Vygotsky also proposed private speech concept which is a strategy for the child to understand the world better. Private speech guides behavior and thinking, and in turn, develops cognitive ability (Yıldırım, 2009). However, Piaget has different views on private speech. He considers children’s self-speech as egocentrism. Piaget states that egocentric speech declines with age while Vygotsky expresses that private speech does even exist in the adolescence in the form of internal speech.

Apart from certain differences, there are also some similarities between Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s cognitive development.

Both Piaget and Vygotsky put forward a stage theory. There are particular stages individuals experience through their lives. For example; sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operational, and formal operations are the stages of Piaget’s cognitive development which individuals go through their lifespans. They both emphasized that learners should be active and diligent in learning process. Piaget and Vygotsky also agreed on the idea that children are the active receivers of information rather than passive recipients of knowledge. Both of them stressed that each child is a different world and individuals have different perceptions on the world as well. They stated that it should not be forgotten that each child has different developmental characteristics.

In conclusion, cognitive development is «gradual orderly changes by which mental processes become more complex and sophisticated.» Piaget and Vygotsky are the prominent scientists who dealt with cognitive development. They put forth theories which help us to understand cognitive development better. However, it is easily seen that there are certain differences and convergences in Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s cognitive development.


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  3. Parkay, F. W., & Standford, B. H. (2010). Becoming a teacher. United States of America: Pearson International Company.