Jean Piaget's work on cognitive developmental has affected they way we understand the mind works of a child. He believed that children's thinking is not less sophisticated than that of adults (because they have less knowledge), but that they think in an entirely different way.
Piaget split the child cognitive development into four main stages; driven by the interaction of biological maturation with environment:
* Sensorimotor stage 0-2 years
* Pre-operational stage 2-7 years
* Concrete operational stage 7-11 years
* Formal operational stage 11 years +.
(Jarvis et.al. 2000, Pg. 108)
This study will be concentrating on the sensorimotor stage during which the child develops object permanence. During this stage the child goes through far more rapid changes of development than any other stage. There is a development of complex mental operations by combining basic reactive/repetitive action into higher thinking.
Due to this the stage had to be split into six sub-stages. Substage 1 - up to about one and a half months old, substage 2 - from one and a half to four months, substage 3 - from four to eight months, substage 4 - from eight to twelve months, substage 5 - from twelve to eighteen months and substage 6 - from eighteen months to twenty-four months. (Brain, 2000, Pg. 83-84) This experiment will be concentrating on substage 4 when the child starts and develops object permanence.
A major example of a turning point during the sesorimotor stage is the development of object permanence. This is when the child develops from profound egocentrism to start noticing object around themselves other than themselves. Piaget states that this happens during sub-stage 4.
During sub-stage four the child starts to develop an early form of problem solving by allowing their schemas to combine in order to carry out a cognitive task. When this happens it is said that the child's actions are by reason and not by accident. At around eight months the baby will try to search for an object in the same place that it has seen it last. It seems t develops a skill that tells them the object is still there even though it is not visible to the baby, this skill is object permanence. (Brain, 2000, Pg. 84)
The child was shown something and then it was hidden, the experimenter recorded whether the child attempts to look for it and to see if Piaget's findings still applying in different settings and some 50 years later will come up with the same results.
The aim of this experiment is to confirm Piaget's theory that children obtain object permanence when they are at 8 months and not before. It will be tested by using babies from different ages, younger than 8 months and older than 8 months.
The hypothesis is that children above the age of 8months will demonstrate object permanence when shown an object (no matter what shape or color) and that they will look for it even though it is not there (driven by curiosity.)
The null hypothesis is whether or not the child demonstrates object permanence will not be related to any particular age.
This is a field experiment so that the participant is in his/her natural setting, so as to make the participant feel more comfortable for them. It is cross sectional because I would be taking sample participants from different age groups. This is preferable to a longitudinal study because it enables the study to be completed within the time allocated for the coursework. It is a controlled observation because I would be observing the participants in an environment free of distractions and set up by me, even though in their own home. However they all would be controlled in the same way. I would be observing the participants with an assistant who will help me conclude the results at the end. This will give some inter rater reliability to the results.
There are two variables independent and dependant. The independent variable (IV) of this observation is the age of the participants (age = operationalisation of biological maturity). The Dependant variable (DV) is whether the child seems to look for the object, operationalised as the child putting its hand on the ball after it has been hidden.
For this observation I will be using 4 different participants. It is an opportunity sample; the good thing about this method of participant selection is that the participants are familiar and comfortable with the experimenter. Although this may it difficult to generalise. I will be using a 6month old female baby which will be called Participant A. A 10month old baby male baby, which will be called Participant B, a 14month old baby female baby, which will be called Participant C. A 16month old baby male baby, which will be called Participant D. The letters sequences the age of the participants. The youngest participant, Participant A was chosen to investigate whether object permanence is shown in babies under 8months of age.
The main apparatus was a tennis ball and a screen. A tennis ball was chosen mainly because of its green colour, which might attract the baby's attention some more. An A3 sized black screen made of cardboard was held in front of the participant. An A3 black sheet was chosen so it was big enough and dark enough not to allow any light threw, instead of a pillow to make it more practical. 2x recording sheet, so that my assistant and I can record the results independently. Eye movement will be recording with any observed eye movement towards the screen after the ball is placed behind it. Movement towards the screen will be recorded with any reaching movement towards the screen after the ball is hidden and retrieving the ball will be measured with any hands on contact with the ball.
The participants were given a set time to play with the ball until agreed that she/he recognises it. After the child found the ball as an interesting object, the ball was taken from the child and hidden behind the screen, this was done while the participant was looking. That is when the observation began. I recorded eye movement, movements to the screen, the length of time taken to retrieve the ball and whether the participant retrieves the ball. I also observed the child's eye movement if it seemed to focus at the screen, if the child moved towards the screen, and finally if the child finds the ball behind the screen.
I had an assistant with me to record observations in the same way and then at the end of the observation we conclude each other's idea to come up with the final result. I did this because the observation would be less bias and more effective, with some inter rater reliability
In order to make the observation fair and valid we had to control the extraneous variables. When observing the child with my assistant the child's mother will be the only other one with us. This will be done to make the child as comfortable as possible while minimising distractions. The mother did not talk or to give any hints to where the ball is. My assistant and I would not talk during the observation.
It will be done in a quiet room, with no main distractions. All appliances will be turned off. E.g. Phones, TV, Radio etc. This is about as controlled and the same time as comfortable you can make the observation for both the participant and the recorder. I got full support for the participant's parents during the observation and we made sure that the child was comfortable which it was, so at the end of the observation there would be no ethical issues to evaluate.