Piaget studied a small and
unrepresentative sample, few
details of participants were given
and often used his own children.
Reporting was less than
rigorous; he often failed to
record the number and ages of
his participants and did not
carry out any statistical analysis.
Tests - Relied too much on
memory and language skills
and the researchers may
have confused the children.
Tests were often confusing as Piaget
failed to consider how test performance
might be affected by factors such as
language ability, memory, context,
motivation and perceived intention.
Piaget may have seriously
underestimated children's ability.
However, some of the
tests he devised were
simple and ingenious.
Clinical Interviews - Piaget did not adhere to the
normal scientific procedures of standardisation
and control. His interactions with participants
were quite informal and each participant was
treated slightly differently. This meant that the
results gained on any one occasion may have
been partly due to the way in which the interview
was conducted rather than to the age of the child.
It may be too subjective and liable
to lead the children in a certain
direction, however, it is a valid
method to use although
comparison of data may be difficult.
Piaget assumed that if a child did not
succeed at a task it was because they
lacked ability. In fact there may have
been many reasons why children did not
give the correct answer in Piaget's tests.
It is wrong to assume that task failure equals lack of ability.
Piaget's extensive work paved the way for
further research and he made cognitive
development a core aspect of developmental
psychology. Numerous others have conducted
studies to explore aspects of his theory and to
see whether his findings are supported.
Piaget's extensive clinical observations, in
which he paid such close attention to how
children behaved and what they said, have
provided us with a rich and detailed
account of cognitive development.
Piaget's tests were
innovative and creative,
yet incredibly simple.
His proposal that there is
a universal sequence of
cognitive development is
generally supported by
Piaget's findings have had
an enormous influence on
early years education.
Bower and Wishart (1972).
Wanted to find out
earlier than 8 months.
infants between 1
and 4 months old.
Instead of using Piagets blanket
technique, they waited until the
infant reached for an object and
then turned out the lights so that
the object was no longer visible.
They used an infra-red
camera to observe the child.
The researchers found that the
infants continued to reach for
the object for up to 90 seconds
after it became invisible.
Bower claimed that infants
acquire object permanence
much younger than Piaget
stated. He explained their
lack of success in Piagets
task as being due to an
inability to understand the
results of moving an object
to a different location.
In Piaget's test the object
was moved when it was
hidden, but in Bower and
Wishart's procedure the
object was not moved.
Hughes and Donaldson (1979).
Aim was to test children's ability to
take another person's point of view in a
task that makes more sense to children
than the three mountains problem, but
made similar cognitive demands.
30 children aged between
3 years 6 months and 4
years 11 months took part.
3 tasks were used. Only the second
tasked is described. This involved a
model brick wall built in the shape of
a cross, and three dolls (a boy and
two policemen). The experimenter
checked that the children understood
the task by asking each child to
position the boy so that he could not
be seen by one policemen. The
children were asked to hide the boy
from two policemen who were
positioned at two ends of the walls.
The children did this for 4 different
arrangements of the policemen.
27 of the 30 children were successful on
3 of the tasks; slightly fewer (22 of the
30) were successful on all four tasks.
Young children could successfully
accomplish a task which involves
the ability to understand what the
policemen could see.
Hughes and Donaldson (1979) argued that
this was possible because the task was
very much simpler than the 3 mountains
task and was like a hide-and-seek game,
which would be familiar to the children.
McGarrigle and Donaldson (1974).
Aim was to investigate
whether the way that the length
of a row of beads was altered
had an effect on children's
80 children aged between 4
and 6 years took part in the
study. The children were given
Piaget's conservation tasks
involving length and number.
There were two conditions. In one condition, the alteration was
made by the experimenter (e.g. by making one row of beads
longer). In the other condition, the alteration appeared as an
accident; a toy character called 'Naughty Teddy', swooped down,
'messed up the game' and made one row longer than the other.
When the experimenter altered the length,
16% of the children showed conservation
across all the tasks. When Naughty Teddy
altered the length, 62% of children showed
conservation across all tasks.
Children appear to be able to
conserve number at younger ages
than that suggested by Piaget.
Aim was to see whether
children's responses were
affected by the way that
questions about class
inclusion were asked.
35 children about 6 years old took part.
Children were shown 3 black toy cows
and one white toy cow. All the cows
were put on their sides and the children
were told that this was because the
cows were sleeping. The children were
asked 2 questions: Are there more black
cows or more white cows? (the type of
question used by Piaget) and Are there
more black cows or sleeping cows?
Question 1 was answer correctly by 25%
of the children; Question 2 was answered
correctly by 48% of the children.
The wording of the question affects children's
responses. Giving more emphasis to the
whole group by using the adjective 'sleeping'
helped children give the correct answer.
Language used was
Observations and clinical
interviews are both subjective
methods and possibly bias.
with competence when a
task was failed to be
Piaget's first 3 stages
abilities and the final stage
Too much stress on independent
learning and ignored the role of
culture and interaction with others.
BUT concepts have been replicated
so results can be generalised.