Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Gary Larsen

Second Advisor

Joseph C. LaVoie

Third Advisor

Kenneth Deffenbacher


The formal operational stage seems to differ considerably from earlier Piagetian stages. The first three Piagetian cognitive stages seem to develop fully in all individuals, unless there is a major cultural difference or a major psychopathology (Bruner, 1966). In contrast, there is disagreement in the literature as to whether formal operational reasoning fully develops in all normal individuals. Both Dulit (1972) and Tomlinson-Keasey (1972) found evidence that some normal individuals never attain formal operational reasoning. Others however (Jackson, 1965; Lovell, 1961) agree with Piaget (Inhelder and Piaget, 1958) that the emergence of formal operational reasoning occurs invariably between 11 and 12 years of age. The uncertainty about the nature or age of emergence of formal operations is clear. It may be due partly to the variability in the method of assessment of formal operational reasoning; different formal tasks may measure different areas of formal reasoning competence. Berzonsky, Weiner and Raphael (1975) have thus suggested that formal reasoning is a potential competency that is developed in each area as a function of specific situational variables or specific environmental experiences. Even Piaget (1972) has recently admitted that the acquisition of formal thinking may depend in part on particular educational and cultural factors.

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Psychology Commons