Samuel and Bryant 1984

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Samuel, J. and Bryant, P. (1984) Asking only one question in the conservation experiment
katherine.crick
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Resource summary

Samuel and Bryant 1984
  1. Procedure/Method
    1. Aim: To challenge Piaget’s findings by altering the method used by Piaget on the conservation task.
      1. Participants
        1. 252 boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 8.5 from schools and playgroups in and around Crediton, Devon. They were divided into four age groups of 63 children.
          1. 5 years 3 months/ 6 years 3 months/ 7 years 3 months/ 8 years 3 months/
            1. The 4 age groups were divided into 3 conditions.
              1. 1) Standard (Piagetian): The traditional two question conservation task by Piaget. The child is asked about the size of the object before and after the shape was changed.
                1. 2) One Judgement: The child is only asked once about the size of the object after the transformation has taken place.
                  1. 3) Fixed Array: The child saw no transformation and only after they had been changed. The purpose was to check that children who answered the question correctly in the other two conditions did so by bringing over information from the pre-transformation display.
              2. Materials
                1. Volume
                  1. The children were shown two identical glasses with the same amount of liquid. Then the liquid from one glass was poured into a narrower one.
                  2. Mass
                    1. Children were first shown two identical Play-doh shapes. One of the shapes was squashed into a sausage shape. They were asked to compare the two shapes.
                    2. Number
                      1. Children were shown two rows of six counters of equal length arranged side by side. One row was then spread out.
                    3. DV= the number of errors made. IVs= three conditions,four age groups, three materials.
                    4. Evaluation
                      1. Strengths
                        1. High Controls– e.g. 4 attempts at each task which eliminates chance of extraneous factors affecting the results.
                          1. Supports nature side of the nature/nurture debate.
                          2. Weaknesses
                            1. High accuracy on numbers could be due to the counting of counters.
                              1. Use of children
                                1. easily led, demand characteristics, can't give consent.
                                2. Lack of consent from parents of participants.
                                  1. Sample isn't generalisable- only one area in Britain [Crediton, Devon].
                                3. Results
                                  1. The children made fewer errors on the number task compared with the other two tasks.
                                    1. children found the one judgement task significantly easier than the standard conservation task and the fixed-array control for all three types of material.
                                      1. There was a significant difference between the age groups, with older groups doing consistently better than the younger.
                                      2. Findings
                                        1. They believe that the pre-transformation question is unwittingly forcing the child to give the wrong answer by asking the same question twice (they call this the extraneous reason hypothesis).
                                          1. They concluded that children who do not demonstrate the ability to conserve have simply not acquired the strategies for this skill or are not applying the skill correctly.
                                            1. Samuel and Bryant demonstrated two findings which support Piaget. Firstly, older children did do significantly better than younger children on the conservation tasks: 8 year olds did significantly better than 5 year olds. Secondly, they found, like Piaget, that children could conserve number before they could conserve mass and volume tasks.
                                            2. Background
                                              1. Swiss psychologist: Jean Piaget thought that intellectual development happened in stages, and that a child would only go on to the next stage once it had completely mastered the first one. Individual children might go through the stages at a different speed but they would always go through the stages in the same order.
                                                1. 4. Formal operational stage (12 years +). This stage is mainly governed by formal logic and is the most sophisticated stage of thinking.
                                                  1. 3. Concrete operational stage (7-12 years). The child is able to use more sophisticated mental operations. They are able to take account of more than one aspect of a situation (decentring). The child is still limited.
                                                    1. 2. Pre-operational stage (18 months-7 years). The child becomes able to represent objects by symbols or signs. They can now use language and express ideas and is developing some general rules about mental operations.
                                                      1. 1. Sensory motor stage (0-18 months). The child gains understanding of its environment by using senses and movement.
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