Publication 2775

Kesselring T. & Müller U. (2011) The concept of egocentrism in the context of Piaget’s theory. New Ideas in Psychology 29: 327–345. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/2775
In this paper, we trace the origin and development of the concept of egocentrism in Piaget’s work. We evaluate a number of criti¬cisms that have been leveled against the concept of egocentrism. Based on our evaluation, we propose a reconceptualization of the concept of egocentrism as a decentering process with different phases that is recapitulated at different stages of development. We provide examples of the decentering process for the sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete-operational, and formal operational stages. Piaget introduced the concept of egocentrism in his early writ¬ings in the 1920s to describe general characteristics of the preschool child. Since its introduction, the concept of egocentrism has received considerable theoretical and empirical attention and has drawn numerous criticisms. Piaget attributed these criticisms to serious misunderstandings of the concept of egocentrism. Indeed, Piaget (1945/1962: 285, fn) admitted that the choice of the term egocentrism was “unfortunate”, and he apologized (Piaget & Inhelder, 1948/1967: 220) for having dwelt on this expression for the last twenty-five years. In this paper, we trace the origins of the concept of egocentrism in Piaget’s writings and examine the subsequent changes to this concept. We examine some of the criticisms leveled against the concept of egocentrism and conclude that the concept of egocen¬trism remained ambiguous in Piaget’s writings. Finally, we suggest a revision of the concept of egocentrism that addresses these ambiguities.

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