Applying Lessons from Piaget’s Developmental Psychology to the AI Era: Building a Happy Modernity

Cognitive Psychological theories about how our minds develop definitely influence the design and production of learning machines and artificial intelligence. 

The reason I’ve been discussing the importance of theories in various articles and posts is that theories are relatively reliable frameworks that have been empirically evaluated.

They provide practical life solutions, based on logic, research, and scientific inquiry. However, it’s crucial to understand that theoretical assumptions aren’t always reliable everywhere and at all times. Sometimes they need updating and even replacement with new theories, especially in this era dominated by technology, where the pace of change extends to theories as well. 

As a social science researcher, I believe that for happy and fulfilling modernity, we must reassess all theories, especially those in the social sciences, to enhance their effectiveness, even if it means daring to fundamentally change scientific assumptions. 

The concept of “Happy Modernity,” which I’ve been discussing, refers to a sense of satisfaction, peace, and relative success in individual, professional, and social life in a world where artificial intelligence aids and augments human capabilities. 

This satisfaction stems not only from technology assisting the human mind but also from the joy and sense of accomplishment it brings in solving life and professional challenges for all groups. Amidst this, one effective solution could be cognitive approaches aiding in the construction of artificial intelligence algorithms.

This approach helps us understand how we can assist the mind and create conditions for a peaceful life for all humanity. One well-known theory is the cognitive approach associated with Piaget, about which I’ve written briefly, and at the end, I’ve discussed some of its applications. 

Cognitive Psychological theories about how our minds develop definitely influence the design and production of learning machines and artificial intelligence. 

 The Cognitive Development Theory of Jean Piaget as Model for AI

Piaget’s theory of cognitive development focuses on the stages that describe how children engage with the world, rather than just what they learn. Piaget studied children by engaging them in games, questions, and creating tests to understand their thought processes. Among cognitive psychology approaches, Jean Piaget’s name stands out, with many insights to offer. Piaget was a biologist whose theory influenced education, upbringing, and psychology more than any other field.

 Developmental psychology covers gradual changes from birth to adulthood.

Piaget focused on understanding how children think and acquire knowledge. Through observing the learning processes of his own children and others, Piaget developed his Theory of Cognitive Development in 1936. 

 This theory outlines Piaget’s Four Stages of Cognitive Development, which span from birth through adolescence. In summary, Piaget believed cognitive development passes through four stages:

(1) sensorimotor intelligence, (2) preoperational thinking, (3) concrete operational thinking, and (4) formal operational thinking.

 Each stage is correlated with an age period of childhood, but only approximately.

 How can Piaget’s Cognitive Development Stages Shapes AI Design?

 When we talk about stages, it means that the order must be followed, and until the first stage is completed, the second stage won’t begin, and so on. The timing of the beginning and end of each of these stages is approximate and depends on the brain’s internal calendar and nervous system.

 For example, until primary neural structures reach an acceptable level of growth, the stage of symbol development won’t happen. So, the timeline of cognitive and subsequent behavioral events is based on brain growth and maturation.

 Another point is that this order and occurrence are inclusive. This means that this order and flow happen in all human societies. The only exception is for children and individuals with intellectual disabilities and gifted children who are outside the normal curve; this flow is different and may have a faster or slower pace. 

 Additionally, environmental mental stimulation also affects the quality of these changes, although the foundation of these changes is basically a genetic and biological process and relies on stable internal systems. 

 From Criticism to Redefinition of Piaget to Interactive AI tools 

 It’s worth noting that this theory, like others, has received both praise and criticism. – One criticism is Piaget’s insistence on universal stages of development, which some critics argue does not account for significant environmental influences on the pace of growth and even intellectual performance! 

What aspects of Piaget’s theory can we use to embrace a happy and successful modernity

To answer this, we must revisit some key concepts in his theory and explore how they function in today’s world. Moreover, the important question is, how does Piaget’s theory get updated in the era of artificial intelligence? 

Answering this question requires new researches which cannot include in the short article, but I’ll try to briefly express my perspectives. Perhaps in the next article, I’ll delve deeper into it.

 Here are some my assumptions

 – Piaget considered a chronological framework for stages, limiting the influence of environment and environmental conditions in favor of genetics and cognitive readiness. 

Since the introduction of this perspective, this limitation has been criticized. In the era of artificial intelligence, where machines and algorithms are expected to assist the human mind, the focus is on maximizing the mind’s capacity, and mental limitations become meaningless. It’s worth noting that Piaget’s perspective is valuable for understanding children’s developmental stages and is still applicable in constructing artificial intelligence algorithms.

However, given the rapid advancements in human’s intelligent assistants(AI), limitations, including age limitations, become less significant! 

 – Another point in applying this theory in the modern era is the role of information, experience, and the interaction of these internal factors with available human information. 

Piaget believes that although genetics and brain development guide growth, humans, as active beings, constantly examine internal factors received through experience and sensory information with available information. As a result, they either absorb assimilate or adapt themselves to fit entirely new information, leading to growth. 

 – Taking this into account, we must ask, what is experience, and with which experiences is modern humanity interacting

 The answer is that the inputs and information that today’s humans receive from artificial intelligence tools are very different from Piaget’s intended inputs and actions! Modern humans have a powerful assistant that provides complex experiences and even readiness to the human mind in an instant, exposing them to thousands of brain storming at once, taking them beyond the realm of accessible experiences and information, and instead introducing them to a plethora of information.

 Consequently, access to quicker adaptation and high-level cognitive processes and performances such as creativity, innovation, problem-solving, critical thinking, etc., occurs in a fraction of a second. So, while interaction with external experiences and information still exists, this interaction is much faster than what Piaget describes. 

Furthermore, more and more adaptation occurs to the point where essential mental functions like creativity, innovation, and other cognitive actions are not distant events but seem much easier with a much more powerful assistant than before.


Piaget’s key concepts are well-known and have been studied for years. Some of the most important include assimilation, accommodation, cognitive development stages, and equilibrium. In this short article, I focused on cognitive development stages and adaptation because they can guide the design and guidance of learning machines and AI tools. There is still a lot of research on Piaget’s developmental stages underway, but our discussion point is how usable and updatable this theory is in the current times and in the AI era to get Happy Modernity.


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Atefeh Ferdosipour
Atefeh Ferdosipour
From my early years, I harbored a curiosity for exploring unique, undiscovered, and adventurous realms. Born in Iran, I earned a doctorate in educational psychology, dedicating over twelve years to teaching in higher education. Throughout my journey, I actively participated in numerous international scientific committees, contributing to conference organization. As an editor for various international magazines, I've remained deeply engaged in academic discourse. Presently, my passion revolves around the study and application of modern technology in our daily lives. Specifically, I am immersed in the realms of innovation and artificial intelligence, fueled by the aspiration for a brighter and more joyous future for people worldwide.
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