Conservation refers to the idea that "certain physical characteristics of objects remain the same", despite their perceptual differences (Berk, 2009). In Piaget's theory on conservation, children gradually acquire various conservation abilities, such as understanding the conservation of numbers, weight, and volume to name a few. Piaget asserts that until they successfully acquire these abilities, they have no real understanding that quantity remains unchanged despite perceptual changes of the objects with respect to their appearance. This paper aims to reconsider the accuracy of Piaget's assertion, which is supported by alternative views of other theorists.
Piaget's conservation task goes like this. Children were first shown two objects that were both equal in quantity and appearance. They were then asked to judge whether the objects were still quantitatively equal after having seen one of the objects being transformed, where it stays quantitatively unchanged while its appearance is altered. Piaget's evidence on children's acquisition of understanding conservation was based on the their verbal explanations, which demonstrates their understanding of-- (a) reversibility ("If you transform it back to its original state it will be the same"), (b) compensation ("Reduction in one aspect is compensated for in another"), (c) identity ("Nothing was added or subtracted, so it is the same") (Elkind, 1967). However, other theorists such as Elkind disagreed with Piaget.
Piaget and Elkind had different views on conservation. According to Elkind (1967), conservation tasks involves two types of conservation, identity conservation and equivalence conservation. Identity conservation refers to equivalence between the before (V) and after (V1) state of the variable object. Equivalence conservation refers to equivalence between the standard (S) and variable object (V1). Elkind (1967) argues that Piaget's discussion of conservation only deals with identity conservation as...
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