Conservation Tasks and Reason

Piaget had his own way of assessing brain maturation during this period, using his now-famous "conservation" tasks, try this one out on your tour-to-eight-year-old: fill two identical short, squat glasses with equal volumes of water, and ask your child, "Do the two glasses contain the same amount of water, or does one have more?" Now, pour all the water from one of these 'lasses into a tall, narrow glass, and ask your child the same question.

Four-year-olds almost invariably say that the tall glass has more water in it; the difference in the level of the water is simply too great for them to believe that the amount could be the same, even if you pour it back into the smaller glass and show them that it hasn't changed. Eight-year-olds, by contrast, know that the amount cannot have changed. If you press them on why the two look so different, they will tell you that the difference in height is made up for by width, and they will probably even pour the water from the taller glass back into the short one to prove their point.

The difference between four and eight years is the birth of reason, when children finally begin to trust their own thought processes, even over what their senses may be telling them. Piaget called it the emergence of "operational" thinking, when children actually begin applying logic to solve problems. Though younger children can often add a few numbers or recognize some written words, it is only in the latter half of this period—from six on— that most of them click into the rules of thought and realize, for instance, that addition is the opposite of subtraction or that letter sounds flow together into words. Drill them though you may, most four- and young five-year-olds simply can't make these kinds of conceptual connections.


A four-year-old cannot grasp the concept of conservation of mass, but an eight-year-old has no problem with it.

Folksonomies: cognition child development conservation of mass

water (0.962134 (positive:0.031444)), squat glasses (0.941827 (neutral:0.000000)), brain maturation (0.932861 (neutral:0.000000)), equal volumes (0.907500 (neutral:0.000000)), Conservation Tasks (0.906853 (neutral:0.000000)), tall glass (0.869693 (negative:-0.207655)), taller glass (0.868642 (negative:-0.508275)), narrow glass (0.862415 (negative:-0.270263)), smaller glass (0.855965 (neutral:0.000000)), young five-year-olds (0.849288 (negative:-0.415469)), thought processes (0.847165 (neutral:0.000000)), conceptual connections (0.846734 (negative:-0.415469)), younger children (0.827069 (neutral:0.000000)), written words (0.825505 (neutral:0.000000)), difference (0.791863 (positive:0.389409)), Piaget (0.746117 (negative:-0.209485)), reason (0.683308 (neutral:0.000000)), eight-year-old (0.620585 (negative:-0.315681)), Four-year-olds (0.615755 (negative:-0.207655)), contrast (0.584753 (neutral:0.000000)), subtraction (0.581683 (negative:-0.253599)), mass (0.579853 (neutral:0.000000)), problem (0.579689 (negative:-0.315681)), instance (0.578414 (negative:-0.324873)), width (0.578034 (neutral:0.000000)), height (0.577936 (neutral:0.000000)), opposite (0.576546 (negative:-0.253599)), senses (0.575900 (negative:-0.275313)), way (0.574771 (neutral:0.000000)), emergence (0.574680 (negative:-0.209485))

Piaget:Person (0.783852 (negative:-0.209485)), eight-year:Quantity (0.783852 (neutral:0.000000)), eight years:Quantity (0.783852 (neutral:0.000000))

Thought (0.974036): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Addition (0.834114): dbpedia | freebase
Problem solving (0.815719): dbpedia | freebase
Critical thinking (0.733701): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Mind (0.676129): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Concept (0.662465): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Human (0.650917): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Cognition (0.648633): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 What's Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Eliot , Lise (2000-10-03), What's Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life, Bantam, Retrieved on 2011-07-18
Folksonomies: parenting babies development infants physiology


01 JAN 2010

 Baby Care Memes

A collection of memes to help me keep track of what behaviors to emulate and avoid during and after pregnancy.