Pre-Operational Reasoning in Conservation Tasks

Centration:  Inability to decenter Child focuses on one aspect of a situation and neglects others.

In the conservation task, Jason looks only at the width of the playdoh, and not its height.

Irreversibility Child fails to understand that an operation or action can go both ways. Jason does not realize that both halves of the cookie can be put next to each other to show the who!e cookie.
Focus on states rather than transformations Child is unable to respresent the transformation between states. In the conservation task, Jason does not understand that pouring the liquid from one glass to another does not change the amount.
Inability to distinguish appearance from reality Child confuses what is real with outward appearance. Vicky thinks the amount of playdoh must be changed because it looks different.


General Characteristics of Pre-Operational Reasoning


Capacity to form mental representations that stand for absent things or events.

Things no longer need to be immediately present to be dealt with.

Symbolic play; delayed imitation; object permanence; signs; reasoning.

Egocentric speech Child engages in collective monologues, rather than dialogues "My bunny slippers are brown and red and sort of yellow and white..."
Lack of spatial perspective taking Child assumes everyone sees what she sees. The three mountain task.
Lack of mental perspective taking

Child assumes everyone else thinks as she does.

Child has difficulty taking a listenerís knowledge into account.

Vicky takes out her game and tells her mother, "This is your treat.'' She assumes her mother likes to play the game as much as she does.

"Take this one" in the screen task.

Precausal reasoning


("Magical thinking" )

Child does not use deductive or inductive reasoning; instead, he jumps from one particular to another and sees cause where none exists. "I had bad thoughts about my brother. My brother got sick. So I made my brother sick." Or "I was bad so mommy and daddy got divorced."
Preconcepts Child confuses classes with subclasses "There are more puppies than dogs."
Animism Child attributes life to objects not alive. Vicky thinks clouds are alive because they move.
Moral realism What makes an act wrong is its consequences, not intentions Accidently breaking 12 plates is judged worse than deliberatly breaking one.