Years and over formal operations

From around puberty onwards, the child is able to formulate and test hypotheses about the world. The child realises that mass and volume can be altered in many ways, but they remain essentially unchanged. Children can examine their own thought processes and can begin to reason more logically.

Bruner was one of the earliest to demonstrate that children's judgements could be radically manipulated by small changes in the ways the tasks were presented. For example, in the studies of conservation of volume, a screen was placed between the child and the test tubes so that only the tops showed but not the levels reached by the liquid. This simple change meant that many younger children now understood that by pouring liquid from one container to another—perhaps something done daily in the bath—nothing had changed. Some children as young as 4 years were able to perform the revised task, but once they had to make the judgement again without the screen, they reverted to the more primitive form of reasoning. In other words, young children are more at the mercy of their perceptual impressions—a finding that needs to be taken into consideration in many circumstances.

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