Development Psychology: Child in the Preoperational Stage

Topics: Jean Piaget, Developmental psychology, Theory of cognitive development Pages: 7 (2260 words) Published: May 2, 2008
A study was carried out by two third year psychology students to investigate Piaget's stage theory. A 4 years old female child was tested in task of comprehension of more and less, followed standard and modified versions of conservation and class inclusion tasks. Results indicated that child exhibited difficulties in both modified conservation and class inclusion tasks despite the removal of some confounds in standard tasks. This infers that children of pre-operational stage do lack the ability to conserve and categorize objects, as predicted by Piaget. Further research need to address children's numerical abilities, as well as attending to perceptive seductions. This research needs to compare children who are able and unable to attend to number logics, as well as modifying the class inclusion task so that perceptive seduction cannot take place.

Child in the preoperational stageMany researchers have been interested in various confounds which are present in Jean Piaget's stage theories. His studies have postulated that children in the pre-operational stage lack the ability to perform conservation and class inclusion tasks (White, Hayes, Livsey, 2005). The methodologies of the study however, have been criticized by many researchers. Flaws and alternatives found in the standard Piagetian tasks include conversational confusions, perceptual seduction, and linguistic misunderstandings (Light, 1986, Siegel, 1978, 2003, Meadows, 1988). These issues have been addressed with modifications to the standard tasks. Majority of the research have found modified tasks to be better predictors of child's abilities in conservation and class inclusion tasks. (Light, 1986, Siegel, 1978, 2003, Meadows, 1988).

According to Piaget's stage theory, children in the pre-operational stage are non-conservers (White et al, 2005). Their tendency of centration causes them to focus on only one aspect of the problem at a time (White et al, 2005). This implies that they are unable to comprehend that quantitative properties of certain objects remain unchanged despite changes in its appearance (White et al, 2005). For example, pre-operational children typically judge water of the same volume to be more, after the transformation in standard liquid conservation tasks (Siegal, 2003). A problem in this procedure however, lies within the confusion caused by children's conversational experience (Siegal, 2003). This theory proposes that rather than actually responding to the logic behind the transformations of the liquid, children misinterprets the repetition of the same question as a cue to switch their answer in order to please the adult experimenter (Siegel, 2003).

To address conversational confusion, liquid conservation tasks had been modified by the means of incidental transformation (Light, 1986). The intention of this modification is to contextualize the intentions of adults in repeating the same question. Light (1986) administered the standard Piagetian conservation procedure up to the point when both beakers of the same size and volume. However, during the transformation, the experimenter "incidentally" noticed that one of the beakers was chipped, and found a taller and thinner beaker as the replacement container for the original content. The result found that only 5 percent of children correctly responded to the conservation task in the standard condition, while 70 percent correctly responded to the incidental condition (Light, 1986).

An alternative to Piaget's theory of conservation is that non-conservers may actually be perceptually seduced (Siegel, 2003). This theory postulates that children pay more attention to the post-transformation state and disregards the pre-transformation state(Siegel, 2003). They fail the question about conservation because all of their attention are diverted into the new state and they perceive it as different from the old state (Siegel, 2003). Research had shown that children who do not witness the process of...

References: ight, P. C.(1986). Context, conservation and conversation. In M. Richards. & P. Light (Eds.) Children of social worlds : Development in a social context. Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press.
Meadows S (1988) Piaget 's contribution to understanding cognitive development. In K Richardson & S. Sheldon (Eds.) Cognitive Development to Adolescence. Hove: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Siegel, L., McCabe A., Brand J, & Mathews J (1978) Evidence for understanding of class inclusion in preschool children: Linguistic factors and training effects. Child Development, 49, 688-693.
Siegal, M. (2003). Cognitive development. In A. Slater & G. Bremner (Eds.) An introduction to developmental psychology. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Chapter 8White. F, Hayes. B, Livesey. D (2005). Evaluating Piaget 's claims: Preoperational period. Developmental Psychology: From infancy to adulthood .Pearson Prentice Hall. Chapter 5
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