Animistic Thinking in the Preoperational Stage

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Animistic Thinking in the Preoperational stage

The preoperational stage of cognitive development defined by Piaget happens between the ages of 2-7. Children in this age group have a very animistic way of thinking and often bestow lifelike characteristics on inanimate objects. This can range from a child’s favourite toy, the sun in the sky, trees in a park, the television and clouds in the sky. They believe that these objects have feelings, emotions and personalities. This way of thinking is often used to the parents’ advantage as they are able to pretend that their child’s dolly s is tired and wants to stop playing and go to bed. This action is believed by the child and they often follow the lead and go to bed themselves with their dolly next to them. Animism is a classic sign of a child’s egocentrism. For example, a child of 3 years old may have a favourite dolly toy which they have bestowed human characteristics and emotions onto. The child believes that everyone around them can also see these human like characteristics of the doll. The child only has one viewpoint, which is their own. They are unable to conceive of another person’s viewpoint. In other words they are the centre of their own universe. So if the doll was to be man handled in any way, the child would perceive that the doll was being hurt and was feeling pain. This would trigger an emotional response in the child of either anger, fear, pain, anxiety or a mixture of them all. Piaget revealed that children in the preoperational stage are very able to distinguish between living and non-living objects, but they still assign humanistic qualities to non-living objects. As a child continues to develop through the preoperational stage, their animistic and egocentric thinking decreases.
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