A Short Comparison of Piaget & Vygotsky Theories of Development

A Short Comparison of Piaget & Vygotsky Theories of Development

Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory & Vygotsky’s Theory of Cognitive Development

Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory is based on biological changes rather than social interactions and is designed in four stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operational. According to Piaget, cognitive development occurs as a result of maturation and experience. For example, in young adulthood, individuals are in the formal operational stage of cognitive development (Feldman, 2010). In this stage, individuals develop logical and abstract thinking. During this stage of development, people begin to combine objective rational and logical thinking with subjective elements of based personal experience. This combination of thinking allows them interpret the world and form changes in belief differently. These types of changes are heavily dependent on the physical or biological developments brought about by aging (Feldman, 2010).

A second theory of development was expressed by Lev Vygotsky who emphasized how culture and social interaction guides cognitive development. According to Vygotsky,

…development depends on interaction with people and the tools that the culture provides to help form their own view of the world. There are three ways a cultural tool can be passed from one individual to another. The first one is imitative learning, where one person tries to imitate or copy another. The second way is by instructed learning which involves remembering the instructions of the teacher and then using these instructions to self-regulate. The final way that cultural tools are passed to others is through collaborative learning, which involves a group of peers who strive to understand each other and work together to learn a specific skill (Tomasello, et al., 1993) (Gallagher, 1999).

Vygotsky viewed development as inseparable from culture and a person’s development is completely entrenched in his or her cultural paradigm. Within this framework of thought, a person develops by interacting with other people. Thus, if interactions are with other skilled people the developing person will acquire these skills.

Both theories have merit but they are also imperfect and have issues in which components of social interaction or physical-cognitive development overlap. Comparing these theories seems to highlight the nature vs. nurture argument but neither nature nor nurture are separable because it takes both to create a personality and mindset.


Feldman, R.S. (2010) Psychology and your life. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Gallagher, C. (1999, May). Lev semyonovich vygotsky. Retrieved from

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Triola Vincent. Thu, Apr 01, 2021. A Short Comparison of Piaget & Vygotsky Theories of Development Retrieved from

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