Cognitive Development in Children: Experiment


Piaget suggests that children prior to the age of seven develop an
objective moral orientation. They tend to evaluate the good or bad actions on
the basis of the consequences of the actions (good or bad). At about the age
seven, children develop a subjective moral orientation which involves evaluation
of behavior in terms of whether the intentions were good or bad. This
investigational method is used to determine whether children under the age of
seven have objective moral reasoning; along with, if children about the age of
seven have subjective moral reasoning.

Method

Subjects:

The subjects were children from 1990 to 1995 between the ages of three to 11.

Apparatus:

Some sets of three sample story pairs were used for this experiment, along with
a rating sheet, to record the responses from the children.

Story Pair One:

A. A girl (boy) who is named Susan (Jim) is in her (his) room. She (he) is
called to dinner. She (he) starts to go into the dining room, but behind the
door there is a chair: On the chair is a tray with 15 cups on it. Susan (Jim)
doesn\'t know that all of this is behind the door. She (he) pushes on the door,
the door knocks against the tray, and bang, goes the 15 cups! They are all
broken.

B. A girl (boy) named Mary (Robert) wants to get some candies. But her (his)
mother tells her (him) that she (he) can\'t have any more candies, and she (he)
leaves. But Mary (Robert) wants a candy, so she (he) climbs up on a chair and
reaches up to the shelf. But she (he) knocks over one cup and it falls on the
floor and breaks!

Story Pair Two:

A. Sarah (Kenny) was playing on her (his) swing in the back yard. Her brother
(his sister) was also playing in the back yard. He (she) decided to go over to
the sandbox to play. As he (she) walked by the swing, Sarah (Kenny) tried to
kick him (her) but misses.

B. Pauline (Billy) was watching TV. Her brother (his sister) was playing nearby.
She (he) hears her (his) friends playing outside and gets up to run outside and
play with them. As she (he) is running she (he) bumps into her brother (his
sister). He (she) falls down, his (her) nose begins to bleed, and he (she)
begins to cry.

Story Pair Three:

A. Anne (Scott) is playing on the wall near her (his) house. She (he) is not
supposed to play there because it is very dangerous to climb on the wall. But
Anne (Scott) goes ahead and climbs to the top of the wall. She (he) slips and
bruises her (his) knee.

B. Barbara (Trevor) climbs up a very tall tree to help her (his) kitten get
down. She (he) reaches the kitten and helps her get down. But as she (he)
climbs down, a branch of the tree breaks and Barbara (Trevor) falls to the
ground. She (he) breaks a leg.

Procedure:

You must arrange a time to meet with the child in the his/her environment with
no other children present in the room. Set a rapport with the child for a few
minutes, if you don\'t know the child. When the child has settled down and there
is no distractions proceed with the investigation. Tell the child that you will
be reading a pair of stories about children. As you read to the child change the
name of each character in the story to correspond to the subjects gender. The
child being read to must determine which child in the story was the naughtiest
and why. This is then recorded in the observation record sheet. The data is
collected for six years.

Results

The results of the children\'s responses are recorded on the Child Observation
Project Frequency Histogram (FIG 1). The data formulated state that, the
children between the ages of three & four, the score for the stories was
relatively low. The children between the ages of nine to eleven the score was
very high. These results indicated that the older children knew from right and
wrong.

Discussion

"Piaget believed that all children pass through a series of distinct stages in
intellectual development."(Coon 1996) By the graph in FIG 1 it holds true. The
pattern of children knowing right from wrong increases dramatically as the
children get older. This would prove Piaget\'s theory of cognitive development.
My personal opinion on this is that children know right from wrong by the way
their care givers teach them. If they were explained what was bad instead of
just saying no the child would pick