Characteristics of the Formal Operational Stage:
The formal operational stage begins at approximately age twelve to and lasts into adulthood. During this time, people develop the ability to think about abstract concepts. Skills such as logical thought, deductive reasoning, and systematic planning also emerge during this stage.
Piaget believed that deductive logic becomes important during the formal operational stage. Deductive logic requires the ability to use a general principle to determine a specific outcome. This type of thinking involves hypothetical situations and is often required in science and mathematics.
While children tend to think very concretely and specifically in earlier stages, the ability to think about abstract concepts emerges during the formal operational stage. Instead of relying solely on previous experiences, children begin to consider possible outcomes and consequences of actions. This type of thinking is important in long-term planning.
In earlier stages, children used trial-and-error to solve problems. During the formal operational stage, the ability to systematically solve a problem in a logical and methodical way emerges. Children at the formal operational stage of cognitive development are often able to quickly plan an organized approach to solving a problem.
More From This Series:
Santrock, John W. (2008). A topical approach to life-span development (4 ed.). New York City: McGraw-Hill.
Piaget, J. (1977). Gruber, H.E.; Voneche, J.J. eds. The essential Piaget. New York: Basic Books.
Piaget, J. (1983). Piaget's theory. In P. Mussen (ed). Handbook of Child Psychology. 4th edition. Vol. 1. New York: Wiley.