Samuel and Bryant (1984): conservation
AIM: To challenge the methodology used by Piaget by asking only one question in the conservation task.
participants were 252 boys and girls ages between 5-8 and a half years old. They were divided into 4 groups of age (with mean ages of 5 and 3 months, 6 and 3 months, 7 and 3 months and 8 and 3 months) and then into 3 age matched groups for the conditions of the experiment. this study can be considered a lab, quasi experiment using an independant measures design (as different groups of children were used for each condition). There are three independant variables were age (quasi/naturally occuring), condition (standard, one-question and fixed array) and type of material...
- the age of the participants were ages 5, 6, 7 and 8
- the task conditions: the standard condition (used by Piaget in which participants were asked about the quantity/size of objects before and after they were changed), the one question condition (where children are only asked one question post-transformation) and the fixed array condition (the control condition where children are not shown the transformation)
- the type of material used. (counters, playdough or glasses of liquids)
each participant undertook four trials using each type of material. The order in which they did the test and the order of the materials varied systematically for each child.
The quantitative data produced, in the form of the DV, was the number of errors made by the children (an error being when the participant wrongly judged the quantities to have changed post-transformation).
RESULTS: the one question condition was significantly easier than the other two conditions, this was true of all three types of material and of all four age groups. They also noticed that fewer errors were madeby 8 year olds than by 5 year olds. The fixed-array condition produced the highest number of errors in all age groups and 'volume of liquid' was the material that produced most errors.
CONCLUSIONS: Samuel and Bryant were right to question Piaget's use of two questions as the results show that children are more able to show their ability to conserve when they are not asked the same question twice (as children made fewer errors in the one-question condition than in the standard condition). However it does seem as though the ability to conserve increases with age.
ETHICAL ISSUES: when conducting research with children under 16 psychologists must obtain consent from the adult responsible for that child.
THE SAMPLE: Participants of various ages were used (inlike Rose and Blanks) so the researchers can note how conservational skills develop with age. The sample was large and likely to be generalisable to a wider population. However, it could be that in different countries the education system for children indifferent sso we should exercise caution in generalising the findings beyond Western Europe.
THE RESEARCH METHOD: Lab experiments make it possible to compare the different ages so we are able to demonstrate a cause and effect relationship. Lab experiments also make it possible to eliminate extraneuos variables, raising the validity. However demand characteristics may have effected the way the children (particularly the younger, less confident ones) may have behaved in the study. The study also lacked ecological validity, the task may have been unfamiliar to the children and so not a true reflection of their cognetive skills.