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Stages of adult cognitive development, according to Schaie

etapas desarrollo cognitivo

We leave to develop our intellect when we are adults? Along our vital cycle follow developing our cognitive and intellectual capacities in relation to the importance that the people give him to the meaning of his own lives. This is the approach of the German psychologist K. Warner Shaie (n. 1928). Therefore, the human beings continue developing us along all our life although in relation to different factors that will depend to a large extent of our interaction with the surroundings and the personal motivation.

Why we know what know?

Shaie bases his theory of the development cognoscitivo in the adulthood in several stages that  engloban under three big questions on the human development:

  1. What is what need to know? It would comprise the earliest stages of the development in which we purchase skills for the life: infancy and adolescence. We are learning to live the life, prepare us to live in society.
  2. As it would have to use what know to do? Stage in which they integrate  the skills to put them in practice. It corresponds to the first stage adult.
  3. Why it would have to know? We look for the meaning of the learnt and the purpose of our knowledge, surely to be able to it optimise in the future generations. It culminates with the sabiduría that represents the old age.

7 Stages of the cognitive development according to Shaie. 

The theoretical model posed by Shaie bases  in the fulfillment of motivational aims along the vital cycle that go answering to the three questions explained previously: what need to know?; How I put it in practice?; Why are what know? Under these three premises, Shaie proposes 7 stages of the cognitive development:

  1. Stage of acquisition. It develops  during the first of the questions and corresponds to the childhood and the adolescence. They purchase  the necessary skills to be able to participate in the society of effective way without taking into account the rest of variables.
  2. Stage of attainment. It comprises from the end of the adolescence (19-20 years) until roughly the 30 or 31 years. The knowledge purchased manages  to achieve put personal: finish a career, look for a work, a family, fulfil our expectations that have kept us motivated to some aims that fulfil basing us in the tools and skills purchased in the previous stage.
  3. Stage of responsibility. It comprises between the 30-31 years, or in function of the personal development the 39-40,  until the starts of the 60 years. In relation with the previous stage, employs  the knowledge to resolve problems related with his own responsibilities: familiar, professional and personal. Once assumed the attainments, touches to manage them and resolve problems in search of the optimisation. It uses the knowledge to take care of his.
  4. Executive stage. The knowledge and the skills use  to put them in practice to levels more complex: development of institutions, companies, governments, organisations of all type. It could solaparse with the previous in function of the own individual development, initiating surroundings to the 30-40 years. It is a stage in which it explodes  the knowledge to expand it. Explained under some business surroundings, would be the step between being the employee that fulfils aims to the director or president that organises and develops the company or create his own.
  5. Stage of reorganisation. It corresponds  with stage half adult and the start of the adultez later arriving to the stage of the labour retirement. In this period the life reorganises  and the cognitive capacity and intellectual employs  for another type of companies in which it prevails less the character rewarded (in general).
  6. Stage reintegrativa. Adultez Late or early old age. In this stage select  more the tasks to make because of the own biological changes of the age devoting efforts to look for the purpose and meaning of the learnt in the previous stages.
  7. Stage of creation of legacy. Arrived to the most advanced old age the purpose of the tasks centre  in keeping an alive legacy that can optimise the attainments achieved along the life, is the age of the wills and write the history of his life so that the future generations learn of them and can prepare for the death.

The young stage of our life comprises the stage of attainment, responsibility and execution. In which stage of your cognitive development are you?


Schaie, K. W. , Willis, S. (2016). Handbook of the Psychology of Aging (Eighth Edition). Academic Press: San Diego.

Iván Pico

Director y creador de Psicólogo Colegiado G-5480 entre otras cosas. Diplomado en Ciencias Empresariales y Máster en Orientación Profesional. Máster en Psicología del Trabajo y Organizaciones. Posgrado en Psicología del Deporte entre otras cosas. Visita la sección "Sobre mí" para saber más. ¿Quieres una consulta personalizada? ¡Escríbeme!

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