LivingThe egocentric stage in children: what it is and...

The egocentric stage in children: what it is and how it evolves

You’ve probably heard of the egocentric stage in early childhood . It is a completely normal evolutionary stage and necessary for the subsequent social and affective development of the child.

And it is that, between the two and three years , approximately, the children have an egocentric vision of the things; This means that they cannot de-center themselves from their own exclusive vision (egocentric vision).

However, as they grow, they become capable of developing the ability to understand that the other also has their point of view, which also facilitates the development of empathy. But how is this evolution?

The American educational psychologist Robert Selman, specialized in social development in children and adolescents, studied this evolution, and described it through five phases , which we will learn about throughout the article.

But first, let us know in greater depth what the egocentric stage consists of, already developed by Piaget in 1923.

The egocentric stage in children

Piaget develops the phases of cognitive development in childhood. Within these phases we find the egocentric stage, within the preoperative thinking.

When he speaks of egocentricity, Piaget refers to the fact that the child is not capable of distancing himself from his own point of view ; or, in the words of the psychologist, it is about ” the difficulty that children have to place themselves in a perspective other than their own.”

This egocentricity is extrapolated to different areas of the child’s development, beyond the social area (in the physical, social, cognitive and language levels). We are going to know these types of egocentricity in the development of the child.

Physical self-centeredness

Physical egocentrism refers to the fact that, during the egocentric stage, the child is focused on his own point of view , on his body and on his actions. In addition, it does not yet establish objective relationships between objects.

This type of physical egocentricity implies a tendency of the child to see the world only from the perspective of oneself and difficulties to recognize the point of view of others .

social self-centeredness

Egocentrism also occurs at the level of interpersonal relationships; In this case, the child will gradually become aware that he is part not only of the physical world, but also of the social world, but the relationships he maintains with others will not be fully cooperative.

For example, in this period, the child finds it difficult to coordinate in the game with the others . In this way, they are children, for example, who play together but do not coordinate with each other (they play side by side; the so-called parallel game).

Logical self-centeredness

At the level of reasoning there is also egocentricity. In this case, children are based on the intuition of things and reality, to reach conclusions (not on deductive or inductive reasoning).

Speak egocentric

Finally, on the level of language, egocentricity also appears (the so-called egocentric speech). We speak of an egocentric language when the child only talks about himself , and does not try to place himself in the point of view of his interlocutor.

At this stage, according to Piaget, the child is also not interested in knowing who he is speaking to or if he is being listened to.

The ability to adopt the perspective of the other

But how does the egocentric phase evolve during the first years of life? How do children move from the egocentric view to the ability to adopt the perspective of the other?

It is important to know that without the ability to take another’s perspective, it is difficult for children to understand what others are like . Robert Selman investigated this question, and asked the children about the feelings, thoughts, and intentions of the protagonists in a series of stories.

Through his research, Selman traced the development of the ability to understand that others have different opinions than his own.

These stories revolved around childhood dilemmas , such as when a girl who has been banned from climbing trees can rescue a friend’s cat only after she has climbed the tree.

Selman’s ideas were influenced by Piaget’s cognitive development, and this author believes that children go through five stages until they adopt the perspective of the other.

These stages are related to the ability of children to understand the differences between their own perspective and that of the other .

From self-centeredness to awareness of other people’s opinions (and social norms): five stages

We have learned what the egocentric stage implies in development, but how does the child go from this phase to being able to empathize with others , and to distance himself from his own point of view?

Selman describes five stages up to the awareness that others have their own opinions, and the awareness of social norms, including Piaget’s already developed egocentric stage, as the first stage of social development.

Egocentric vision

This egocentric stage, already described, begins at two years and ends at three, according to Piaget, although it can last up to six, more or less, according to Selman, and if we refer to an egocentric vision at a purely cognitive level.

At this stage, and as we have seen, children do not realize that the thoughts, feelings, intentions and motivations of other people may be different from their own .

Others have their own ideas

In this second stage, children, between the ages of six and eight, know that others have their own ideas , but they believe that these differ from theirs because they are based on different information.

Furthermore, at this stage children are still unable to judge their own actions from another point of view.

The opinions of others are based on their values

As they get older, and between the ages of eight and 10, children begin to know that the views of others are based on their own purposes or values.

They can even judge someone else’s actions. However, they still cannot consider their own vision and that of the other at the same time.

Consider other people’s points of view

At this stage, social development and empathy are much more developed.

According to Selman, between the ages of 10 and 12, children begin to realize that both they and the other person can simultaneously consider their own views of each other .

In addition, they can stand as witnesses to the interaction and see how a third person would interpret it.

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.”

-Meryl Streep-

Awareness of social norms

Finally, from the age of 12, children are aware of the points of view shared by the social system , that is, they are aware of social conventions, social norms …

And also, they realize that knowing each other the points of view of others, and of society in general, does not always lead to a complete understanding between both parties.

And you, do you think your child is still in the egocentric stage? Or are you already beginning to develop the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes?

Photos | Cover (pexels), Image 1 (pexels), Image 2 (pexels)

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