Characteristics of Formal Operational Stage of Cognitive Development

Formal Operational Stage of Cognitive Development

Cognitive development refers to the acquisition of thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving abilities. The theory of cognitive development was developed by Jean Piaget who is referred to as the father of cognitive development. He was a Swiss psychologist who examined the change in thought processes in children. Jean Piaget asserts,

“Cognitive development is a progressive reorganization of mental processes as a result of biological maturation and environmental experience.”

According to Jean Piaget, the formal operational stage of cognitive development is the stage which is the most important stage in child development. Piaget believed that there were four main stages of cognitive development namely, the sensorimotor stage, the preoperational stage, the concrete operational stage, and the formal operational stage. The formal operational stage of cognitive development begins at 12 years and goes on till adulthood.

Characteristics of the Formal Operational Stage of Cognitive Development

The characteristics of the formal operational stage are as follows.

  1. During this stage, the thoughts start becoming increasingly abstract and flexible.
  2. Children start thinking about the consequences of their actions and start developing problem solving skills.
  3. Children start developing deductive reasoning which is the act of reasoning one or more statements to arrive at a logical conclusion.
  4. Children also start developing inductive reasoning which refers to the process of moving from specific observations to generalisations.
  5. In this stage, children also start understanding that the rules of a game are developed by mutual agreement.
  6. During this stage, teens start thinking about issues that require abstract and theoretical reasoning such as moral, social, ethical, political, and philosophical issues.
  7. In this stage, they develop the ability to manipulate ideas and think in an abstract manner.


The formal operational stage is a stage of various developments. The school curriculum must be formulated according to these developmental changes.

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