COGNITIVE-PERCEPTUAL DEVELOPMENT IN CONSERVATION
The major goal of this study was to clarify whether conservation is knowledge that helps the child overcome the overwhelming and misleading pull of perception or rather, whether conservation could be interpreted as knowledge that informs a parallel development in perception. The second interpretation suggests that as children develop a new way of understanding the world, they will simultaneously develop a new way of seeing the world.;Two parallel experiments with slight differences were conducted to investigate the hypothesis that as children construct an understanding of conservation they attribute more veridical meaning to perceptual information. In both experiments children were tested on a conservation of liquid quantity task and on tasks which will be referred to as perceptual judgment tasks. In the perceptual judgment tasks, children had to make judgments of equivalence or nonequivalence of quantity when jars of different widths contained unequal amounts of water reaching to the same water levels and when jars of different widths contained equal amounts of water reaching to different water levels.;In the first experiment children were not asked to explain their judgments on either the conservation or the perceptual judgment tasks. In the second experiment children were required to explain both judgments.;The results of both experiments firmly supported the hypothesis. There was a highly significant association between the extent of children's knowledge of conservation and their judgments of perceptual information.;Nonconservers relied on a single salient perceptual dimension and therefore made inaccurate judgments of quantity in the perceptual judgment tasks. In contrast, conservers compensated for the differences between perceptual dimensions and were therefore able to make more veridical perceptual judgments of quantity. The judgments of children in transition were literally in between those of nonconservers and those of conservers. When their explanations were examined, they exhibited both the configurational reasoning of the nonconserver and the operational reasoning of the conserver. This finding reveals the importance of requiring children not merely to judge but also to explain their judgments on the classic conservation task to avoid erroneously classifying children in transition as conservers.
Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 44-07, Section: B, page: 2268.