Stage 2: The Preoperational Stage

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Social Studies

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Stage 2: The Preoperational Stage


In this stage, thinking is intuitive rather than logical. Children have representation of ideas using words and images, also known as schemas. New vocabulary serves as a “scaffold” to move towards higher levels of thinking. By age 7, children become increasingly capable of thinking and solving problems using words. Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky noted that children do this by no longer thinking out loud, and rather are able to compose thoughts in their minds. Autistic children tend to have difficulty understanding that other people’s states of mind would differ from their own, and tend to have difficulty reflecting their own mental states, becoming less likely to use personal pronouns during this stage.  There are 3 concepts that are exhibited in this stage: conservation, egocentrism, and Theory of Mind.

Stage 2The Preoperational Stage

Occurs from 2 to 6 or 7 years of age

What occurs in this stage?

This child is finally able to think critically and analytically, so she is happy!

Theory of Mind


Conservation is the principle that properties such as mass, volume, and number remain the same despite changes in form of the object. Preoperational children lack this concept of conservation. This can be seen as a child thinks water in a taller glass is more than water in a smaller glass, even if they have the same amount.

Here is a great example of a child's lack of conservation!

The Theory of Mind is one's ability to infer others’ mental states by looking through their perspective. This still develops while a child is egocentric. It enables inferences of emotions and feelings, developing understanding that sad events cause sad feelings and that thoughts can cause feelings. This understanding develops between 5-8 years of age, and shows that spontaneous self-produced thoughts can cause feelings.

Children in the Preoperational Stage suffer from egocentrism, which is the difficulty in perceiving ideas from another’s point of view.  An example of this can be seen when a child sits in front of you and does not realize that your view is blocked because of him or her.  Abusive parents usually fail to understand egocentrism, perceiving it as willfully malicious, which can have severe repercussions.

The child in this case effectively demonstrates the concept of egocentrism.


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