The Idea Of Conservation In Piaget’s Cognitive Theory

Jean Piaget, a psychologist, created the cognitive theory. It has had a profound impact on psychology and education. Piaget identified four periods of cognitive growth: the sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete and formal stages. Preoperational is the stage in which children aged between two-seven and seven are most likely to develop and refine their symbolic representation. This is when children learn to use their intuition.

As their brains develop, babies become toddlers and then young children. Children’s understanding of numbers and symbols grows as they become more able to identify their appearance, but they are limited in their ability to relate the world to them. Piaget states that preoperational-aged children are very influenced by what they see based on their intuition. Although they haven’t developed any logical skills, children rely heavily on intuition. Piaget devised the conservation task-studies to illustrate how children can see concrete operations using their logical thinking. Conservation is the understanding that objects’ properties are unaffected by physical changes. Based on their learning experience, preoperational age children may not understand the concept of conservation. They will be able to understand the concept of conservation if they can. To make the concept more clear, I carried out a similar task. My six-year-old niece was invited to help me with an assignment. My assignment required her to ask questions and she eagerly accepted. I tried to make sure that she completed the task after dinner, as it was a hectic environment with her family. To reduce the chance of any other children influencing the results, I made sure that there weren’t any. I used two identical cups, one taller than the other and one narrower. I used identical glasses cups and poured equal amounts of water into each cup. I asked her if the water glasses she was using were equal in size. After carefully examining both cups, she decided they were identical. I then poured water from the smaller cup into the larger one. I asked her whether the glasses were different in size or equal. She looked at both cups again and pointed to the narrower cup, claiming it contained more water. I asked her why the cup contained more water. The taller cup held more water. After explaining the difference in water content between the cups, I began pouring water from the taller cup into my smaller cup. I repeated the task, and she understood and explained what I had demonstrated.

My niece was clearly in preoperational stage after she completed the task and observed me. It was difficult for her to understand that I wasn’t manipulating water but that I was simply changing the appearance of the water. I explained the process slowly to her in order to make sure she understood what it was all about. At first, she was surprised and said she understood the task. She will be able move on to the concrete operational stage once she has fully grasped the concept.

This study allowed me to gather information about my niece’s understanding of conservation of volume. Piaget predicted that my niece would not be able to understand the concepts of constancy and conservation because she was still in preoperational developmental stage, which allows them to see the world through their eyes. Based on my observations, she was curious about the question I asked her. I wanted to ensure she understood the correct answer. She didn’t understand that the water volume was the same after I showed her the way. Kail & Cavanaugh (2019), this age is egocentric. It means that they are not able to see the world in another person’s view. She could only see the water level and not the volume.

This made me conclude that preoperational-aged children, which Piaget refers to in his cognitive evolution theory, still haven’t learned to think rationally. They don’t know how to focus their attention on one problem while ignoring the rest. Children believe they are correct because their intuition is strong. This can lead to children not understanding the importance of volume conservation at this stage. Children must be able understand the concept of conservation in order to move on to the operational stage.

Children must learn to preserve numbers, and then use this knowledge to help them understand the world with their cognitive abilities. This task will help you determine if your child is ahead of the stage in their development and assess their cognitive thinking.


  • paulwallace

    Paul Wallace is a 44-year-old anthropology professor and blogger. He has been writing about anthropology and other topics for over a decade. He has also taught anthropology at the college level for over a decade.

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