Characteristics of Preschool Thinking
[Vinod Anand]

1. The young child cannot think from any point of view except his own and he does not realize that he is limited in this fashion. His thought is centered on one perspective, his own. An example of centered thinking in an adult makes this limitation more clear, because it is obviously inappropriate for adults.

Mrs. A:
My, what a charming accent you have, Mrs. B. I think it is so quaint the way you say “two-dooah Foahd cah” for ‘two-door Ford car.” I’d just love to have an accent like yours.

Mrs. B:
Your own accent is interesting, Mrs. A. I’ve never heard anyone say “caow” for “cow,” as you do.

Mrs. A:
Why, I don’t have an accent, was born right here in Ohio.

Mrs. A could not consider her own speech from Mrs. B’s point of view, nor herself. In addition, she could not comprehend that there existed other points of could she hear Mrs. B’s speech from her point of view or from that of anyone but view. She centered in her own and could not move off or decenter.

The preschool child characteristically has but a dim awareness of his psychological self in relation to the rest of reality even though he knows that his body is a separate arid distinct object among other objects. He does not know that his thoughts and actions make up part of the situation in which he is. He has little objectivity, or relativism, which means looking from another person’s point of view, from another angle in space or time, or imagining how it would be if you were somewhere else.

This is not to say that the preschool child cannot step into the role of someone else. He can do it very well indeed, but when he does it, he loses himself. He cannot stand off and view himself from the angle of somebody else, but he can become the other person. He can do through fantasy, in taking the role of another, what he cannot do through controlled thought. Through neither fantasy nor controlled thought, however, can he see both points of view at once and weigh them.

2. Perceptions dominate the young child’s thinking. He is greatly influenced by what he sees, hears, or otherwise experiences at a given moment. Literally, seeing is believing. The static picture is what he believes. He does not pay attention to transformations or changes from one state to another. What he perceives at any one time is, however, only part of what a more mature person would perceive.

Carolyn, the 2-year-old who remarked, “Choo-choo going fwimming,” was beholding on the river a large object, followed by several similar, rectangular objects, which did in fact resemble a train. The pointed prow of the tug, the decks, the small size, the absence of wheels—all these features did not indicate to her that this object was not an engine, although they would have done so to an older child.

If Carolyn saw these aspects of the tug, she ignored past experiences which would have been brought to bear on the situation by a more sophisticated observer. Nobody has seen a train moving itself on anything but a track.

Carolyn’s thinking was not flexible enough to watch the tug and barges, think of trains and how they run, compare this event with past observations of trains, and then come to a conclusion based on both present and past. Another illustration of the dominance of perception is the ease with which young children can be fooled by a magician.

Although the older members of the audience reject the evidences of their senses because they reason on the basis of past experience, the preschool children really believe that the magician found his rabbit in the little boy’s coat pocket and that the card flew out of the air into the magician’s hand.

One of Piaget’s famous experiments is done by pouring beads from one glass container to another glass, taller and thinner than the first. When asked whether there are more or fewer beads in the second glass, the child answers either that there are more, because the level has risen, or that there are fewer, because the glass is narrower. The child centers on either height or width, in fact, more often on height, which is more salient.

In contrast, a child who had reached the next stage of thought, the period of concrete operations, would reason with respect to both relations and would deduce conservation.

His perceptions would be placed in relation instead of giving rise to immediate reactions.
Perception becomes more flexible, “decentered,” with increasing maturity. Children between 4 and 12 were tested with cards containing at least three ambiguous figures apiece.

The first cards showed a butterfly with a face in either wing. The score was for number of spontaneous perceptions. The number of perceptions increased with both age and IQ. Four-year-olds typically saw a butterfly but no faces, whereas children 9 and up ordinarily saw the butterfly and both faces. A few of the preschool children with high IQ’s gave responses much like those of sixth graders. Thus, with intellectual growth, children became less rigid perceptually, less tied to the first perceptual response made in the given situation.

3. Reasoning at this age is from the particular to the particular rather than from general to particular. Piage tells how Jacqueline, age 34 months, ill with fever, wanted oranges to eat. Her parents explained to her that the oranges were not ripe yet they had not their yellow color and were not yet good to eat. She accepted the explanation until given some camomile tea, which was yellow. Then she said, “Camomile tea isn’t green, its yellow already Give me some oranges!”

Thus she reasoned that if camomile tea was yellow, the oranges must have become so. She went from one concrete instance to another, influenced by the way she wanted things to be.

4. Preschool thinking is relatively unsocialized. The young child feels no need to justify his conclusions and if he did, he would not be able to reconstruct his thought processes so as to show another person how he arrived at his conclusions. He takes little notice of how other people think, sometimes even ignoring what they say when he is talking. He begins to adjust his thinking to that of other people only as he becomes aware of himself as a thinker and as he grows in power to hold in mind several aspects of a situation at a time. Through years of interaction with other people, discussing, disagreeing, coming to agreements, the child gradually adopts the ground rules necessary for logical thinking.

Author's Bio: 


Born in 1939, and holding Master’s Degree both in Mathematics (1959) and Economics (1961), and Doctorate Degree in Economics (1970), Dr. Vinod K.Anand has about forty five years of teaching, research, and project work experience in Economic Theory (both micro and macro), Quantitative Economics, Public Economics, New Political Economy, and Development Economics with a special focus on economic and social provisions revolving around poverty, inequality, and unemployment issues, and also on informal sector studies. His last assignment was at the National University of Lesotho (Southern Africa) from 2006 to 2008. Prior to that he was placed as Professor and Head of the Department of Economics at the University of North-West in the Republic of South Africa, and University of Allahabad in India, Professor at the National University of Lesotho, Associate Professor at the University of Botswana, Gaborone in Botswana, and at Gezira University in Wad Medani, Sudan, Head, Department of Arts and Social Sciences, Yola in Nigeria, Principal Lecturer in Economics at Maiduguri University in Nigeria, and as Lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in Nigeria. Professor Anand has by now published more than 80 research papers in standard academic journals, authored 11 books, supervised a number of doctoral theses, was examiner for more than twenty Ph.D. theses, and has wide consultancy experience both in India and abroad, essentially in the African continent. This includes holding the position of Primary Researcher, Principal Consultant etc. in a number of Research Projects sponsored and funded by Universities, Governments, and International Bodies like, USAID, IDRC, and AERC. His publications include a variety of themes revolving around Economic Theory, New Political Economy, Quantitative Economics, Development Economics, and Informal Sector Studies. His consultancy assignments in India, Nigeria, Sudan, Botswana, and the Republic of South Africa include Non-Directory Enterprises in Allahabad, India, Small Scale Enterprises in the Northern States of Nigeria, The Absolute Poverty Line in Sudan, The Small Scale Enterprises in Wad Medani, Sudan, Micro and Small Scale Enterprises in Botswana, The Place of Non-Formal Micro-Enterprises in Botswana, Resettlement of a Squatter Community in the Vryburg District of North West Province in the Republic of South Africa, Trade and Investment Development Programme for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises: Support for NTSIKA in the Republic of South Africa, and Development of the Manufacturing Sector in the Republic of South Africa’s North West Province: An Approach Based on Firm Level Surveys. Professor Anand has also extensively participated in a number of conferences, offered many seminars, participated in a number of workshops, and delivered a variety of Refresher Lectures at different venues both in India and abroad. Dr. Anand was placed at the prestigious Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), Shimla in the State Himachal Pradesh, India as a Fellow from 2001 to 2003, and had completed a theoretical and qualitative research project/monograph on the Employment Profile of Micro Enterprises in the State of Himachal Pradseh, India.