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Jean Piaget: biography of the father of Evolutionary Psychology

Jean Piaget: biography of the father of Evolutionary Psychology

August 10, 2022

Probably no surprise to anyone the idea that we are not born with the same mental abilities that we have in adulthood. The ability to understand the world, to take into account that objects and people continue to exist despite the fact that we can not see them, to attribute intention and a mind of our own to others, to capture and interpret information from the environment, to draw up plans to solve or Establishing hypotheses is something that requires a process of maturational development and learning, both biology and experience being involved in its emergence.

Many authors have investigated how different mental abilities and abilities arise throughout life, with Jean Piaget being one of the most influential and important examples of recent times regarding the study of cognitive development. It's about this author that we're going to talk about in this article, making a short biography of Jean Piaget .


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Brief biography of Jean Piaget

Jean William Fritz Piaget Jackson was born on August 9, 1896 in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. He was the first-born of the professor of medieval literature Arthur Piaget and Rebecca Jackson, daughter of the owner of the first steel factory to the crucible of France.

His childhood was spent in an academic environment, acquiring and learning from his father a critical and analytical mentality as well as the taste for writing and the fascination for living beings . On the other hand, the relationship with his mother was apparently not easy or positive.

Already since childhood Piaget showed signs of having some precocity, showing great interest in mechanics, ornithology, molluscs and biology in general. He entered the Latino Institute in his town. While in high school at the age of ten, would elaborate and send an article about the alpine sparrow to a local natural history magazine , this being his first contribution and scientific publication.


After that and during adolescence, he would awaken in the young man a great interest in zoology and molluscs. He would get in touch with Paul Godel, director of the Museum of Natural History, who would become an assistant for four years and after which he published several articles on malacology. His publications would have him offered a position at the Museum of Natural History in Geneva , who could not get to occupy because of his young age (he had not yet completed his schooling).

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Years of training

After secondary education, Piaget would go to study at the University of Neuchâtel, graduating with a degree in Natural Sciences and obtaining his doctorate in 1918 with a thesis on malacology.

After that, he would decide to study at the University of Zurich , where for a semester he studied and began to acquire interest in psychology from the works of Freud or Jung. He started working in psychology laboratories in that city and he would even make two publications about it.


Linking with children's psychology

During that same year 1919 Piaget would move to Paris as professor of psychology and philosophy at the Sorbonne, knowing and working with a lot of important psychologists like Binet or Bleuler . I would also go to work in a school run by Binet and Simon as a teacher, in Grange-aux-Belles. There he would begin to notice differences between the response patterns of adults and children, something that would lead him to think about the existence of different processes attributable to certain evolutionary moments.

A short time later, in 1920, he would be part of the group that perfected Stern's intelligence test, also detecting consistent errors in children's responses. Together with Theodore Simon, he would begin to explore children's intelligence and reasoning .

During the year 1921 he published a first article on intelligence, which would cause him to receive an offer to work as a director of the Rousseau Institute in Geneva. With this offer, in which something that led him to return to his country of origin. From his position he would be developing various works in which reasoning, thinking or children's language worked. His academic participation continued to grow, also attending in 1922 the Congress of Psychoanalysis in Berlin (where he would personally meet Freud).

In 1923 he married Valentine Châteney, having three children with her. His fatherhood would be important not only on a personal level but also at a professional level , since it would be the observation and analysis of the growth and development of his children which (together with the influence of various previous authors and the realization of the different studies mentioned above), would lead him to the elaboration of his most famous work: the theory cognitive-evolutionary in which will expose the different stages of development and constructivist theory.

In 1925 he would work as a professor of philosophy at the University of his hometown, despite continuing at the Rousseau Institute. Likewise, Together with his wife, he would observe and analyze the development of his children . During the year 1929 he would return to Geneva to work in the university of that city as professor of psychology and history of science. Later it would happen to the University of Lausanne. While in the latter as professor of psychology and sociology, in 1936 he would be appointed director of the UNESCO International Bureau of Education. In 1940 I would begin to study aspects such as perception, working on aspects such as the development of spatial perception.

By 1950 Piaget would carry out the elaboration of genetic epistemology, another of his great contributions, in which it worked the cognitive structures and the evolutionary and historical changes of the relation conscience-environment . This contribution would lead to the generation of the cognitive schema concept and its constructivist theory in which it valued the biology-environment relationship in the formation of thought.

Five years later he founded and would be named director of the International Center of Genetic Epistemology, a post he held until his death. Piaget would receive numerous honorary degrees and doctorates throughout his life, as well as several international awards for his scientific contributions.

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Death and legacy

Jean Piaget died at 84 years of age on September 16, 1980, in Geneva, after about ten days hospitalized. His death is an event of great relevance, being his legacy and his contribution to psychology one of the most extensive and relevant of the last century .

His theories on child development have influenced a large number of well-known authors such as Bruner, Bandura, Ausubel or Erikson, and they are still valued and taken into account at the theoretical level. He emphasizes especially the importance of his cognitive-evolutionary theory, on the development of the cognitive capacities and in which he speaks to us of the different stages of the development. However, this is not the only field in which he worked but also made various contributions in fields such as sociology, philosophy or even biology.

Bibliographic references:

  • Cellenieror, G. (1978) Piaget's Thought, study and anthology of texts. Península Editions, Barcelona.
  • Cortés, M.I. and Tlaseca, M. (2004). Monography Jean Piaget. National Pedagogical University. Mexico DF.

The Growth of Knowledge: Crash Course Psychology #18 (August 2022).


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