Jean Piaget was one of the most prominent researchers in child developmental psychology. Piaget hypothesized that all children pass through a series of stages from birth to adolescence: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operational (149). There were many goals associated with each stage. In the sensorimotor period, children improved on their basic reflexes and advanced their intentional actions. The children also developed mental representation such as imitation, object performance, symbolic play, and language (Chapter 6, lecture notes). This stage focuses on children from birth to two years of age. Within the sensorimotor stage, there are several substages. These substages more accurately break down the ages and specific progressions for each age group. The preoperational stage involves children from two to seven years old. This stage allows children to demonstrate their intelligence through symbolic thinking and mental reasoning. The next stage, the concrete operational stage, involves children ages seven to eleven. Intelligence, in this stage, is demonstrated through logical and systematic manipulation which is characterized by conservation. Conservation is the knowledge that quantity is unrelated to the arrangement and physical appearance of objects (236). Without this concept, children do not understand changes in dimension. The final stage of this series is the formal operational stage which starts at age eleven. In this stage, intelligence is demonstrated through the logical use of symbols related to abstract concepts. The purpose of this experiment is to understand what children age four to eight believe about their perception of conservation.
For this experiment I interviewed my niece, Jasmine Myles. She is a six year old, first grade student at Rankin Elementary School in Tupelo, Mississippi. The materials I used for this experiment were a tall, thin glass and a fat, short glass. I also used twenty quarters and silly putty. During the experiments, I poured six milliliters of milk into both the tall, thin glass and the fat, short glass. I put the twenty quarters in two stacks of ten, and placed them in different arrangements. One arrangement was placed together closely, and the second arrangement was spaced out. For the last array of experiments, I made silly putty, and put the same amount of putty on two paper plates; both sections of putty arranged differently on the plates. On one plat the putty was flattened into a circle and on the other plat, the sat in a ball. All of the examples were set on top of a table, and I proceeded to ask my niece a series of questions. I asked basic questions such as “what were in the different examples,” just to make sure she understood what the materials were. I also asked her to choose one of each of the tow examples that contained the most of each substance, if there was one? I used the word “if” to make sure I did not influence the child to believe that there was an example that contained a greater amount than the other.
The responses Jasmine gave to my questions were somewhat normal for younger aged children that do not understand conservation. She chose the…