DECALAGE AMONG OBJECT TYPES IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE OBJECT CONCEPT
BEPKO, RAYMOND ALBIN
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This study explored the relationship between type of object and the development of object permanence. The framework for the study was Piaget's six stage theory of object concept development. Alternatives to this theory and the adequacy of current methodology for assessing the object concept were discussed. The existence of decalage (gaps in the application of mental operations) for different types of objects was investigated through the use of a repeated measures design. Subjects were 54 white, middle-class children between the ages of six and 18 months. Controlling for practice and carryover effects, a series of six increasingly difficult object permanence tasks were administered using primary, familiar and novel objects. Each task corresponded to a stage in object concept development. Scores on the six tasks did not differ significantly as a function of the type of object used in the tasks. Hence, the existence of decalage was not supported, contrary to the stated hypotheses. Partial confirmation of Piaget's sequence of development was obtained through an examination of task ordinality. However, the ordinality of Tasks 3 and 5 was not supported and Task 4 was placed at a lower level of development than expected. To explain the ambiguous ordinality of Tasks 3, 4, and 5, several solutions were offered. Task 4 could be seen as presenting fewer and different demands. Performance on Tasks 3 and 5, which involved successive visible and single invisible displacements, may be mediated by emerging language development and the ability to label primary and familiar, but not novel, objects. Suggestions for further research to refine the tasks and specifically investigate the role of language were made.
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