Inability to Conserve

As discussed in class, the preoperational stage of Jean Piaget’s cognitive developmental theory covers children from ages two to seven.  This stage is most known for the explosion of mental representation capacity.  One area that takes some time for children to learn is within the area of conservation.  Conservation is the principle of certain physical characteristics remaining the same when outward appearance changes.  Piaget was able to prove that children in the preoperational stage showed an inability to conserve.

In the book, examples of this are explained in the form of number, mass, liquid, and weight.  With number, a child would see there to be a different number of objects if the same ten objects were moved into a different pattern.  With mass, a child would think there was a different amount of clay used if there were two identical balls of clay, and then one of the balls was rolled into a different shape.  With liquid, a child would think there was a different amount of liquid in a glass if there were two identical glasses of liquid, and then one was poured into a wider glass. With weight, a child would think there was a difference in weight if the child saw two identical balls of clay, and then saw one of the balls rolled into a different shape.

Although the inability to conserve is present at the preoperational stage, within a few years, children start to develop the ability to conserve.  Conservation of number, mass, and liquid usually come between six and seven years old.  While conservation of weight can take a few more years, typically being acquired somewhere between the ages of eight and ten.

About the author – I am Ryan Van Wagenen.  I am a 24 year old born to Felicia and Ken Van Wagenen in Los Angeles, California.  I am a senior at the University of Utah and will graduate this spring with a major in Economics and a minor in Psychology.  After graduation, I will move to New York this summer to pursue a career in investment banking at Citi.  Philanthropy is also important to me and I will continue to stay involved with the Prostate Cancer Foundation.  PCF is a great organization and has made great strides to cure cancer over the past ~20 years.



~ by Ryan Van Wagenen on October 29, 2009.

2 Responses to “Inability to Conserve”

  1. This is so fun to see in action. It’s just something you don’t even think about in developing, but it’s almost comical to see in action. Thanks for reporting on this.

  2. I agree with you. Conservation is definitely something that is often overlooked. Before reading about children’s inability to conserve, I don’t think I would have been even close to guessing how long it takes them to understand the conservation of weight. It was interesting to research. Thanks for the comment.

    Ryan Van Wagenen

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