Comparing Piaget and Vygotsky

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 As we progress through our educational journey, we are taught to believe that there are several indicators in our lives which can influence us is a variety of ways. Developmental psychologists Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky teaches us how to understand the different stages that we go through as we mature. Whether it be socially or cognitively, our developmental processes helps to mold us into adults who can determine what developmental role we best identify with.

Piaget and Vygotsky Summarized

Both Piaget and Vygotsky have a lot to bring to the table when it comes to how we develop, even as children. Piaget determined that we develop solely from our own minds without any interaction from any other stimulus. Based on Piaget’s theory, Wood (2001) concluded that they were not limited to receiving knowledge from parents or teachers; they actively constructed their own knowledge (Wood 2001 p. 1). Lourenco (2012) also mentions that Piaget felt that the individual constructs his or her knowledge individually or solitarily (Lourenco 2012 p. 282).

Vygotsky’s theory focuses on the different ways that social encounters helps to shape our minds and perceptions of the world. Steiner and Mahn (1996) have gathered from Vygotsky’s theory that “sociocultural approaches emphasize the interdependence of social and individual processes contribute to the co-construction of knowledge” (Steiner and Mahn 1996 p. 191). Lourenco (2012) adds that Vygotsky’s “theory on higher functions originate as actual relations between human individuals” is relative to some underlying points in Piaget’s theory (Lourenco 2012 p. 282).

Similarities with Piaget and Vygotsky

Both Piaget and Vygotsky offer great insight as to how we develop both individually and with others. One of the most common points that both theorists makes is that one way or another, we are innately develop through some form of learning. Lourenco (2012) says that both psychologist believe that “a developmental perspective is essential for an understanding of psychological phenomena and processes” (Lourenco 2012 p. 283).

Beginning with children, both Piaget and Vygotsky felt that because children are actively learning, that the feedback that they received from adults gave them necessary skills to further their mental development. Burman (2007) relays this point by mentioning how Piaget studied basic mechanism of ensuring equilibrium in the relations between the person and the environment (Burman 2007 p. 1).

Vygotsky also noted how important the person’s environment was to their overall development. Steiner and Mahn (1996) mentions how Vygotsky stressed that “human development starts with ones caregivers, where the individual relies on transmitted experiences from others” (Steiner and Mahn 1996 p. 192).

Along with the environment playing a role in development, Piaget and Vygotsky also share a dialectic approach to psychology, according to Lourenco. Lourenco (2012) explains Paiget and Vygotsky’s dialectic approach to psychology as “involving a continuous interaction among distinct, but interdependent, functions or processes” (Lourenco 2012 p. 282). From Piaget’s point of a view, a child can learn without knowing that he or she is participating in anything that requires them to learn. For Vygotsky, our surroundings can influence our behavior, even without us knowing that that influence is present.

Differences between Piaget and Vygotsky

While Piaget and Vygotsky offer a lot of similarities in their theories, they also had some contrasting details that needed examining. One difference in their theories was that Piaget felt that there was no end-point in learning. For Piaget, learning began with the child and stayed with them throughout their entire life. Vygotsky felt that learning began with a child as they developed, but ended at death. From this standpoint, Lourenco (2012) concludes that “Piaget’s approach is fundamentally oriented to an autonomous subject and Vygotsky’s dominant orientation to heteronomy lie at the heart of essential developmental features” (Lourenco 2012 p. 284-285).

In terms of true knowledge and necessary knowledge, Piaget and Vygotsky had little in common on this point. Lourenco (2012) says “Piaget’s theory on concept formation results from a relatively natural and spontaneous process, while according to Vygotsky, one should view concept formation as a function of the individual’s social and cultural development” (Lourenco 2012 p. 291).

Based on the above statement, one can conclude the Piaget’s psychological approach resonates more toward true knowledge, while Vygotsky ideas lean more toward necessary knowledge. According to Piaget, a membership relationship represents a true, not necessary, af?rmation or proposition, yet Vygotsky felt that necessity is only involved in mentioned class-inclusion relationships (Lourenco 2012 p. 290).

Gaining an Understanding

There is a lot to take away from Piaget and Vygotsky’s theories. One thing that we can apply to our own lives is that how we develop is not something that needs to be overthought. We learn what we must learn, whether we know that we need to know it or now. Like fear, we learn to be afraid of things, even as innocent children. In return, those same things that we feared as children follow us into our adult life. Piaget and Vygotsky teaches us not only how to understand how we learn, grow, and develop, but also, how to continue on that learning. Even though Piaget felt that learning stopped after adolescence, Vygotsky forces us to never stop learning. Everything is a leaning experience and think that Piaget and Vygotsky made that point very clear to us in their research.


Burman, J. T. (2007). Http://’s%20four%20stages%20(2).pdf.

John-Steiner, V., & Mahn, H. (1996). Sociocultural approaches to learning and development: A Vygotskian framework. Retrieved from

Lourenço, O. (2012). Piaget and Vygotsky: Many resemblances, and a crucial difference. New Ideas in Psychology, 30(3), 281-295. doi:10.1016/j.newideapsych.2011.12.006

Wood, K. C. (2001). Piaget’s Stages. Retrieved September, 2017, from

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