Piaget’s Developmental Theory

Table of contents


The main aim of this research was to test Piaget’s developmental theory on children within the pre-operational stage. Piaget claimed that children aged 2 – 7 are unable to make appearance and reality distinctions of liquids, mass and numbers, while some other theorists claim that with the appropriate wording and concept, children would perform better in these experiments. Therefore this research aimed to verify that assertion by carrying out a conservation of liquid experiment with a six-year-old child.

Two glasses filled to the same extent with Ribena were presented to The Child. One of the glasses was then poured into a shorter and wider bowl. The child reported that the liquid content in the cup was ‘bigger’ than that in the bowl, because its contents were ‘taller’. The questions and procedure were handled in an age appropriate manner, as illustrating by Donaldson and McGarrigle, however The Child’s response does verify Piaget’s theory on the pre-operational child’s inability to conserve.


Jean Piaget has been attributed as the father of cognitive development. His belief was that a child’s cognitive development influences their social and emotional development. He proposed several principles regarding child development that has influenced substantial research on child psychology (Smith et al, 2003).

Piaget proposed that cognitive development of humans is based on their ability to adapt and learn from the environment through assimilation and accommodation (Piaget, 1952). This process in children is based on developmental stages, which is in turn dependent on the age of the child (Schaffer and Kipp, 2009). He proposed four cognitive development stages in children: such as the sensori – motor period (children of age 0-2), preoperational period (children of age 2 to 7), the concrete operations age (children aged 7 to 11 years) and the formal operations stage (children aged 11 or 12 and above).

The pre-operational period of a child’s development is that stage at which children are able to relate to objects symbolically (Piaget, 2001). Piaget asserts that the thinking of 2 – 7 year olds is animistic, egocentric and characterised by centration. They are able to reason about objects and events based on their symbolic representation (Damon and Lerner, 2006). However Piaget (2001) asserts that children of this age range are unable to make appearance and reality distinctions of these objects. Therefore if the appearance of two similar objects (number, mass or liquid) has been changed, the child would be unable to deduce this logically (Schaffer and Kipp, 2009). This occurrence is attributed to their inability to conserve, which refers to a person’s understanding that superficial changes in appearance do not reflect change in quantity (Damon and Lerner, 2006). Pre-operational children lack the thought process required to apply principles of compensation and reversibility and therefore have difficulty in conservation tasks (Piaget, 2001).

Though Horowitz (1987), amongst other theorists, has verified the authenticity of this theory, Vygotsky’s (1978) emphasis on the socio-cultural affect on childhood development portrays that cognitive development cannot be viewed in isolation. This view is supported by Damon and Lerner (2006) who discovered that cognitive development of children in various parts of the world differs significantly. Donaldson and McGarrigle (1978) found that children’s responses to Piaget’s experiments improved by up to 48% when the wording and context were changed. Even slight variations in the wording could help clarify the meaning of the question, and can have positive effects on the child’s performance (Locke and Ciechalski, 1995).

The major objective of this research is therefore to ascertain the effect of wording on a pre-operational research carried out with a 6-year-old child. Would a variation in the wording and context of the experiment result in a different response from a child in the pre-operational stage?


This research would be adopting a deductive approach to answering the research question. Existing theories have been reviewed, which would then form the basis of this research that aims to verify or discredit such assumptions (Horowitz, 1987).

a. Participants

This research was carried out with a 6-year-old male. He is from xxx origin, class, school, hobbies and activities. He is well averse in English language and can communicate effectively.

b. Material

The conservation of quantity experiment was utilised in this research. The materials present were two empty glasses (measuring 30ml, 5cm long and were conical in shape), one clear plastic bowl (square in shape and measuring 5 cm square, 2 cm long) and a jar of diluted Ribena, which were all set on a dining table. Two chairs were present, with the child sitting opposite the researcher.

c. Ethics

The participant utilised in this research, is the researcher’s child. The child’s permission was sought without interfering with his playtime with friends, eating time or homework time, thereby removing any obstacles that would have prevented the child’s full attention. The procedure was explained thoroughly to the child, the researcher confirmed that the child fully understood what was going to happen before the experiment commenced. The Child’s identity has been protected in this researcher, by referring to him as ‘The Child’.

d. Design

This experiment was designed to replicate Piaget’s conservation of quantity experiment as depicted in Piaget (1952). The procedures, materials and participants are to a considerable extent, a replication of Piaget’s experiments.

e. Procedure

The replication of Piaget’s experiment followed the following sequence.

The two glasses, one bowl and Ribena jar were placed in the middle of the table.
The Child was invited over and talked through the whole procedure.
Consent was sought from the child, in that he wanted to participate and understood the procedure and what was required of him.
Equal portions of Ribena were poured into both glass cups.
The child was asked if the quantity in both glass cups were the same.
Then the Ribena in one of the cups was poured into the square plastic (shorter and wider).
The child was asked again if he thought the quantity in the glass and the bowl were the same.
The responses derived from the child were recorded and the experiment was concluded.


The following conversation ensued during the experiment:

– Researcher: “I am going to pour Ribena into these two cups for you and your brother. I want to give you the same amount”

– Child consents and nods head. Researcher pours equal quantity into both glass cups.

– Researcher: “Do you think the Ribena in the two cups are the same amount, or are they different?”

– Child examines content in both cups.

– The Child: “They are the same amount mummy.”

– Researcher: “OK, but this one cup does not look clean, let me pour the Ribena into that bowl.” Pours contents in one of the glass cups into the bowl.

– Researcher: “Is that OK, would you like the one in the bowl or the one in the cup?”

– Child examines content of the glass cup and bowl.

– The Child: “I would like the one in the cup”.

– Researcher: “WhyAre they different?”

– The Child: “The one in the cup is bigger mummy, that’s why I want it.” Child has mischievous look on face, like he has done something really smart.

– Researcher: “OK, I would give you, but why do you think the one in the glass is bigger”

– The Child: “Because it looks taller, and the one in the bowl looks shorter. I want the one in the glass cup.”


The major objective of this research was to ascertain whether a change in the wording or context of the experiment would result in any significant difference in response from the participant, with respect to Piaget’s conservation experiment of liquids for children in the pre-operational developmental stage. Piaget claimed that children in this stage were unable to distinguish between the same quantities of liquids that had been poured right in front of them into glasses with different shapes (Piaget, 1952). However Donaldson and McGarrigle (1974) recorded better results in kids when the wording of the experiment and context were more ‘child friendly’. The experiment was therefore carried out with a 6-year-old kid, and the materials and language utilised were those that the child were familiar with and had a keen interest in (in this case – a bigger share of Ribena fruit juice).

The child reported that the quantities of Ribena in the conical shaped glass cup, and square shaped plastic bowl, were indeed different, and that he wanted the glass cup because that was ‘bigger’, even though he saw the researcher pour the contents of the other glass cup into the shorter and wider bowl. When asked to expatiate on the reason why he thought the contents of the glass cup were bigger, he attributed it to the contents being ‘taller’. The child did not seem to understand that though the contents had been poured into a shorter and wider bowl, the contents of the liquid had not changed; it was only the width of the bowl that made the liquid lose height. These findings conform to Piaget’s (1952) theory on the cognitive developmental stages within children. It illustrates that The Child is not able to conserve and deduce logically that the quantities in both containers are indeed the same.

Though the wordings and context were changed significantly to represent something that the child would understand fully, he did not seem to verify Donaldson and McGarrigle’s (1974) theory on the changes in response that could occur. Though a change in wording and context does enable The Child to understand the experiment better and answer the questions more effectively, the findings of this research illustrate that he is still unable to logically deduce the correct answer.

However, the fact that this research was carried out on just one child, poses a severe limitation. Responses gotten from The Child, though reliable and valid, are not generalisable for all kids aged 6. It does not imply that all six-year-old kids in the vicinity, same school or even the same house, would give the same response. Another limitation pointed out by Schaffer and Kipp (2009) is that kids start an experiment with a predisposition that something is bound to change. When the researcher inquires about the content the second time, they believe that something must have changed for that question to be asked, thereby prompting their response.

Though my research on wording and context did not necessarily disprove Piaget’s theories, I believe it does pose a significant opportunity as children seem to understand the situation better, and are more interested when the experiment is of interest to them. I therefore recommend further research with more children, using the procedures outlined in this study.



  1. Damon, W., and Lerner, R. M. (2006) Handbook of Child Psychology: Social, emotional and personality development, John Wiley and Sons, 1128pp
  2. Donaldson, M. and McGarrigle, J. (1974) Some clues to the nature of semantic development, Journal of Child Language, Vol. (1), p185-194
  3. Horowitz, F. D. (1987) Exploring developmental theories: toward a structural / behavioral model of development, Routledge, 216pp
  4. Locke, D. C., and Ciechalski, J. C. (1995) Psychological techniques for teachers, Taylor & Francis, 338pp
  5. Piaget, J. (1952). The Origins of Intelligence in Children, New York: International University Press.
  6. Piaget, J. (1972). Psychology and Epistemology: Towards a Theory of Knowledge. Penguin.
  7. Piaget, J. (2001) The Psychology of Intelligence, 2nd Edn Revised, Routledge, 203pp
  8. Schaffer, D. R., and Kipp, K. (2009) Developmental Psychology: Childhood and Adolescence, Cengage Learning, 647pp
  9. Smith, P. K., Cowie, H., and Blades, M. (2003) Understanding children’s development, Wiley-Blackwell, 663pp
  10. Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind and society: The development of higher mental processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

Calculate the price
Make an order in advance and get the best price
Pages (550 words)
*Price with a welcome 15% discount applied.
Pro tip: If you want to save more money and pay the lowest price, you need to set a more extended deadline.
We know how difficult it is to be a student these days. That's why our prices are one of the most affordable on the market, and there are no hidden fees.

Instead, we offer bonuses, discounts, and free services to make your experience outstanding.
How it works
Receive a 100% original paper that will pass Turnitin from a top essay writing service
step 1
Upload your instructions
Fill out the order form and provide paper details. You can even attach screenshots or add additional instructions later. If something is not clear or missing, the writer will contact you for clarification.
Pro service tips
How to get the most out of your experience with MyStudyWriters
One writer throughout the entire course
If you like the writer, you can hire them again. Just copy & paste their ID on the order form ("Preferred Writer's ID" field). This way, your vocabulary will be uniform, and the writer will be aware of your needs.
The same paper from different writers
You can order essay or any other work from two different writers to choose the best one or give another version to a friend. This can be done through the add-on "Same paper from another writer."
Copy of sources used by the writer
Our college essay writers work with ScienceDirect and other databases. They can send you articles or materials used in PDF or through screenshots. Just tick the "Copy of sources" field on the order form.
See why 20k+ students have chosen us as their sole writing assistance provider
Check out the latest reviews and opinions submitted by real customers worldwide and make an informed decision.
Looks great and appreciate the help.
Customer 452675, April 26th, 2021
Business and administrative studies
Excellent work ,always done early
Customer 452773, February 21st, 2023
Business and administrative studies
Customer 452773, February 23rd, 2023
Business and administrative studies
excellent work
Customer 452773, March 12th, 2023
excellent job made a 93
Customer 452773, March 22nd, 2023
Great job
Customer 452773, February 13th, 2023
I just need some minor alterations. Thanks.
Customer 452547, February 10th, 2021
Impressive writing
Customer 452547, February 6th, 2021
Business and administrative studies
Excellent job
Customer 452773, March 9th, 2023
Business and administrative studies
always perfect work and always completed early
Customer 452773, February 21st, 2023
Social Work and Human Services
Great work I would love to continue working with this writer thought out the 11 week course.
Customer 452667, May 30th, 2021
Business and administrative studies
excellent work
Customer 452773, March 9th, 2023
Customer reviews in total
Current satisfaction rate
3 pages
Average paper length
Customers referred by a friend
15% OFF your first order
Use a coupon FIRST15 and enjoy expert help with any task at the most affordable price.
Claim my 15% OFF Order in Chat

Sometimes it is hard to do all the work on your own

Let us help you get a good grade on your paper. Get professional help and free up your time for more important courses. Let us handle your;

  • Dissertations and Thesis
  • Essays
  • All Assignments

  • Research papers
  • Terms Papers
  • Online Classes



eskişehir eskort



eskişehir eskort

Live ChatWhatsApp