Introduction:Piaget believed that there were four main stages in which children pass during cognitive development. The sensorimotor stage lasts for the first two years of a child's life, and learning primarily occurs through their senses. The child will also develop object permanence. The pre-operational stage is where a child's thinking becomes more dominated by observation and perception. In this stage, a child develops the ability to decentre, and conservation will follow this development. The concrete operational stage is where children develop full ability to conserve. In the formal operational stage, the child can think hypothetically, and decentration continues through this stage, allowing the child to display hypothetico-deductive reasoning.
Piaget focused on conservation in the pre-operational stage of development. Piaget stated that children in the pre-operational stage couldn't conserve. He claimed this was due to centration. According to Piaget, the child fails conservation tests because "the child lacks crucial internalised cognitive operations".
Others have criticised Piaget. McGarrigle and Donaldson (1974) adapted the traditional conservation task and examined the conservation of number. They found that only 16% of children could conserve under the original method, but with the addition of a 'Naughty Teddy', it was found that 62% of the children showed conservation skills. The use of the 'naughty teddy' served to decrease demand characteristics in the children. This is because the transformation occurs accidentally. This shows that children in the pre-operational stage can conserve under the correct conditions.
Samuel and Bryant (1984) performed a conservation study where only one question was asked. The study showed there was a large discrepancy between competence and performance, as well as the conditions which the child was placed under affecting their performance. This dispelled any demand characteristics in the child. This study challenges Piaget's view that children cannot properly conserve until...