Abstract: Constructivist pedagogy draws on Piaget’s developmental theory. Because Piaget depicted the emergence of formal reasoning skills in adolescence as part of the normal developmental pattern, many constructivists have assumed that intrinsic motivation is possible for all academic tasks. This paper argues that Piaget’s concept of a formal operational stage has not been empirically verified and that the cognitive skills associated with that stage are in fact “biologically secondary abilities ” (Geary and Bjorklund, 2000) culturally determined abilities that are difficult to acquire. Thus, it is unreasonable to expect that intrinsic motivation will suffice for most students for most higher level academic tasks. In addition, a case is made that educational psychology must incorporate the insights of evolutionary psychology
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