When do Children really understand conservation?

This study was done to see if young children really understood number conservation. This was based on a study carried out by Piaget, where children were presented with some counters that were separated and than with the same amount of counters but this time they were pushed together, and asked if there were less counters than before. McGarrigle and Donaldson thought that children did know that there was the same amount of counters but in Piagets’ experiment the children may have thought that Piaget wanted them to say that there were less counters.

To solve this McGarrigle and Donaldson made it seem that the counters were pushed together accidentally rather than on purpose. In the control condition 80 children were used, using the Piagets’ method, where the experimenter pushed the counters together. The same children were used in the experimental condition where the children were presented with two rows of counters but this time the participants were told that a ‘naughty teddy’ had ran across the table and pushed the counters together. They were than asked there were the same amount of counters or less. The results showed a considerable difference, in Piaget’s condition 16% answered correctly whereas in the experimental condition 62% got the question right.

This experiment showed high ecological validity because the children were presented with items that were familiar to them and things that they could relate to, i.e. the counters and the teddy, this was better in this sense than Piaget’s experiment. However the sample that was used was not big enough and only consisted of 4 to 6 year olds, all other age groups were left out, and therefore this experiment lacked genralisabilty.

Also this was only carried out once and cannot be too reliable; it may have only worked for that one time. Another problem with this experiment is that demand characteristics could have been a problem and the group could have been biased (only well behaved children used) finally the research method was not known and so cannot be evaluated fully. Ethically the experiment was not excellent and some points were neglected, one is that the children were told what they were doing and they were not briefed, also if the participant did not get the answer right they may be made to fell ‘stupid’, they should have been reassured even if they did not get the answer correct.

When do babies really acquire an understanding of object permanence?

This experiment was carried out to see if babies understand object permanence. This again is based on one of Piaget’s theories that babies will not pursue an object once it is out of sight, meaning they do not have an understanding of object permanence. But this may not be the reason that they did not pursue the object it could be that the just did not have the coordination to do so. To see if this is so, Baillargeon and DeVos knew that babies could recognise discrepant events, so the created an experiment with a possible condition and an impossible condition by passing long and short carrots though a window.

These conditions were: the possible one was where a long and short carrot s were passed and only the long one was visible and the short one was only visible when it had pasted the window. The impossible condition was the same as the possible condition but neither the long nor the sort carrot was visible though the window but reappeared when it had passed the window. What was recorded was the time the babies took looking at the carrots in both conditions. If the baby looked longer at the impossible condition it meant that they understood object permanence. The results showed that the babies did take longer looking at the carrot in the impossible condition proving that the babies did have some sort of understanding of object permanence.

This experiment lacked ecological validity because it is a very artificial condition, it is not the sort of activity the babies would normally do and it would not have been in their normal environment and therefore may have affected the results. The sample was of an unknown number of three month old babies. By only using three month old babies it made the experiment lack generalisability other age groups could have been used which would have improve the experiment also the gender of the babies was not known. This experiment was not repeated but could have and so it would have improved the reliability of the results.

The validity of the results is quite good because the risk of demand characteristics is minimal because the experimenter was just merely observing the baby and did not have much contact with it. There was a set way to do the experiment so this would also reduce experimenter bias, this could not influence what the baby looked at. Ethically this experiment is hard to say if it was ethically correct because babies were used and couldn’t be briefed etc. However the babies were not put though and discomfort, however the fact the carrot the carrot just disappeared could have confused the baby.

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