Report Testing Children
Erasmus University Rotterdam
International Bachelors in Psychology
Name: Samraggee Bhattacharya
Student Number: 508045sb
Trainer: Kasia Sikora
The cognitive developmental approach emphasizes the way in which children actively engage in thought processes. According to Piaget, children try to understand the world by developing schemes, which are actions or mental representations that organize knowledge (Santrock, 2014). Some of these schemes develop during infancy, which are known as behavioral schemes while the other scheme called mental schemes develop during the childhood years. The two concepts that explain how a child uses schemes is assimilation and accommodation. Piaget defined assimilation as the way children consolidate information that is new to them whereas accommodation is understood as the way children modify their schemes to integrate information that is completely new (Santrock, 2014). He proposed that cognitive development takes place in a series of stages. The first stage is the sensorimotor stage that takes place from birth to 2 years of age, the second stage is the preoperational stage that takes place from 2 to 7 years of age, the third stage is the concrete operational stage that is marked by development in children aged 7 to 11 years and the last stage is the formal operational stage that is marked by developmental changes in adolescents aged 11 to 15 years (Santrock, 2014).
These stages are accompanied by various developments and limitations, but the ones discussed will be centration and conservation that arise in the concrete operational stage. Centration is a developmental limitation that arises in the preoperational stage of development. Children tend to focus on one characteristic instead of the overall pattern and this phenomenon is also known as lack of conservation. A concrete operational thinker would know that the fundamental properties of a material remains unchanged even if it has been altered slightly. However, Piagets theory gained a lot of criticism as there was no emphasis on the cultural influences that effect conservation in children. Cultures that train their children to be more mathematical and analytical, give rise to children that conserve earlier than Piaget mentioned. Children can also be trained to reason on a higher stage than the stage they are at in the present, which contradicts Piagets theory that consists of fixed and absolute stages. His theory also poses a challenge for children who still experience centration within the concrete operational stage. Several children conserve in some tasks but not in the other tasks. For example; a child aged 8 will understand that a stick of clay can be rolled into a ball, but the child might not understand that the ball of clay and the stick of clay weigh the same. A 9-year-old will understand the both the stick and the ball weight the same and a 10/11 year realizes that the volume of the ball of clay remains unchanged even if its outward appearance has been reorganized (Santrock, 2014). As children tend to conserve differently according their age with respect to cultural exposure, how does their age, culture & education level effect the process of conservation? To answer these questions, the following test was conducted on Indian children who were born and brought up in Amsterdam. One of them was 6 while the other child was 9 years old.
Two children (n = 2) aged 6 and 9 were tested on to examine if they conserved or failed to conserve in the conservation task. The children were ethnically Indian but since birth, both the children were exposed to the Dutch culture and society as they were born in Amsterdam. At home they are taught about the traditions and heritage of India which draws a distinction between the individualistic culture of the Dutch and the collectivistic culture of Indians. To respect their privacy, the children will be referred to as D and E. Both were siblings with E being the elder sister and D being the younger brother.
Before starting the test, the parents were made to sign a consent form granting us the right to use their children for the test. Fist, D was made to sit comfortably, and he was told that we would be playing games together. Two glasses of similar height were filled with water up to a certain level. 8 coins were used for the second task and two sticks were used for the third task. D aged 6 was made to sit comfortably first. He was asked if the amount of water in the two glasses were similar. Later, water from one of the glasses was poured into a long and narrower glass. After that, he was asked to compare the level of water in the longer glass with the amount of water in the shorter glass and his responses were recorded accordingly. Next, eight coins were laid out in front of him in rows of four. Then he was asked if the two rows were same. Then coins were spread out in the top half and he was asked again to point out if the two rows were similar or not again. Next, E aged 9 was tested in the same way starting with conservation of liquid and ending with conservation of numbers. In addition to recording their responses to the questions and behaviors during the test in writing, the entire test was recorded using a voice recorder with parental consent.
When D was asked to answer if the quantity of water in the glasses were equal, he used his hand to measure the level and said that the amounts are equal. After the water was poured into a longer and narrower glass, he used his hands again to measure the levels in the shorter glass and the longer glass. He looked at the two glasses for a moment before answering that the quantities are different. D was asked to explain the reason behind his answer and he said that the quantity of water is more in the longer glass because it just looked taller and the amount of water looked more than the amount of water in the shorter glass. Next, coins were laid out in front of him with four on top and four in the bottom row. He was asked to answer if the number of coins in both rows were similar. He replied with a yes after looking at the two rows for a few minutes. After the coins in the upper row were spread out, D was asked to determine if the two rows were still similar. He looked at the rows from different perspectives, for example; by standing up and looking at them from above, moving to the right and the left side. He eventually answered the question saying that the two rows are indeed similar. When he was asked why he thought they were similar, he reasoned and said that though the coins on the upper row were spread out, the number of coins in both the rows were still the same.
E was asked to answer the same question that was asked to D, which was if the amount of water is similar is similar in the glasses that were of the same size. She replied immediately saying that the quantities are similar. When she was asked if the amount of water is same or changed in the narrower glass, she quickly said that though the glass is taller, the volume of the water remains unchanged. During the test that required coins, one coin was a 2-euro coin in the upper half out of three 50 cents. The lower row had four 50 cents. The placement of the 2-euro coin was unintentional but it effected the reasoning of her answer to an extent where the test had to be redone. When she was asked if the two rows were similar, she answered by saying that the 2-euro coin would increase the amount in the top row by adding on to the 50 cents and thats how the top row differed from the bottom row. However, the focus of this experiment was to find out if she was able to conserve or not, so the 2-euro coin was replaced by a 50 cent. Then she was told to answer in terms of the number of coins and not by adding the amounts up to differentiate between the two rows. She replied by saying that the two rows are equal as there were four coins in both the rows. After spreading the top row out, she was asked to identify if the top row was longer than the bottom row. She replied quickly by saying they are still the same as the number of coins were unchanged.
In sum, D was not able to conserve in the task that required him to identify the volume of water in a short glass and a narrow glass, but he succeeded in conservation of numbers. On the other hand, E was able to conserve in both tasks presented to her though it took time for her to understand what she was supposed to do or how she was supposed to answer in conservation of numbers.
This study was aimed at finding the impact of the cultural environment, age and education on childrens ability to conserve in the task of conservation. Two biologically related children were asked to participate in this study. D who was 6 years old, was able to conserve in one of the tests and E being 9 years old, was able to conserve in both the tests. This confirms Piagets concept of horizontal decalage. This concept suggests the developmental inconsistencies that arise in children (Shaffer & Kipp, 2014). Piaget proposed that children in a particular stage do not acquire all the skills of that stage at once. A child learns to conserve numbers first and conservation of volume develops later (Santrock, 2014). D was able to conserve in the test that included equal number of coins in both rows. However, he failed at conservation of volume. E was able to accurately answer by saying that the amount of water is still the same. Conservation of volume doesnt develop till the child is around 9 to 12 years old because it is a complex task that requires the child to simultaneously consider the operations involved in the conservation of both liquids and mass and then to determine whether there are any meaningful relationships between these two phenomena (Shaffer & Kipp, 2014). This postulation answers the question confirming the existence of age differences between children in the task of conservation.
Though Piaget believed that the stages of development are fixed and appears in all cultures at the same time, there is evidence that challenges Piagets speculation. In urban middle-class societies, that combine high quality education with modernized child care facilities, children start understanding the concept of conservation earlier than children that belong to primitive societies. In the case of D and E, both were exposed to an urban culture since birth which encourages open mindedness and sharing. In Western cultures, fairness is seen as a form of equal distribution of objects and needs. Thus, children learn to share their crayons, toys and biscuits equally among their friends. This exposes them to more quantitative ways of arranging items which increases their understanding of conservation (Berk, 2013). Children growing up in hunting and gathering societies like the tribes in Nigeria often develop the understanding of conservation later than usual. They rarely attend school and often end up helping their family members instead of gaining relevant knowledge about how the world works. This leads to them progressing in a slower pace even on simple tasks like conservation of number, length and liquid which do not appear until they are at least 11 years old (Berk, 2013). By comparing D and Es situation with children in primitive societies, apart from the difference in their ages, they were able to understand what was being asked which allowed them to formulate their responses accurately. This indicates the importance of education in developing a childs ability to reason appropriately and answers the rest of the question on the influence of culture and education on a child.
The test was valid in its measurement of conservation; however, its reliability seems to be inconsistent due to the differing age and education levels that arise in children. Though evidence against Piagets assumption of universal development is huge, certain experiences out of the schools premises also helps in shaping operational thought (Berk, 2013). In sum, logical thinking in children do not appear at an unremitting and ceaseless manner and they are heavily influenced by the culture they were born and brought up in, the kind of education they were exposed to, and the differences that arise due to age.
Shaffer, D.R., & Kipp, K. (2014). Developmental Psychology: Childhood and Adolescence (9th Ed.). USA: Cengage Learning.
Santrock, J. W. (2014). Child Development (14th Ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Berk, L.E. (2013). Child Development (9th Ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.