An analysis of pre-operational and concrete-operational thinking in contrasting social and cultural contexts: a study of cognitive development in children from five to nine years of age
This enquiry is concerned with the examination of a particular aspect of Piagetian theory, the conservation performance of five to nine years old British and Korean children (N =360) in contrasting social and educational backgrounds.The tests used were a) the Standard Piagetian Test, b) a revised test, c) a new test devised to allow children to reason in relatin to culturally familiar contexts.The main findings are: (1) Children's ability to think logically was not satisfactorily assessed by administering logical and and mathematical tasks proposed by Piaget. Such ability was revealed better through test which took into consideration of the children's fmailiar conceptual experience. (2) An appropriate usage of child language in the tests affects the level of performance of young children in solving cognitive tasks successfully (This could mean that there is a mismatch between children's language and their thinking, (3) Almost all the children in this study, regardless of their ages (5 -9) or their social and educational and cultural backgrounds, can think logically. However, their ways of understanding logical and mathematical problems differ vastly among extreme cultural groups. This means that children's understanding of the logical structure of experimental tasks does not provide a satisfactory estimate of their "free" cognitive ability.It is therefore suggested that any method of evaluating children's ability to think logically has to be adapted to the children's level of knowledge, their experience of applying such knowledge in their activities and their language proficiency.In Piagetian theory, cognitive ability is equivalent to the ability to understand the structure and logic of mathematical tasks. On the contrary, the investigator suggests that cognitive ability of children is, in fact, a facet of their life experience. It is also argued that the ability to solve abstract tasks does not necessarily correspond to the ability to understand the principle of the knowledge concerned.