Below is a very brief summary of the Samuel and
You will need to use the more detailed summary
revise for the exam.
You can also find all
of the past exam questions on Samuel and Bryant's study
In one of his
conservation tests Piaget demonstrated that if you show a child two
beakers of water, one of which is tall and thin, the other short and
fat, and ask the child which beaker contains the most water, most
children under the age of 7 will say 'the tall one', even though
they both contain the same amount of water. Piaget argued that this
is because the child has not developed the ability to conserve
volume. Conservation of volume is the ability to realise that
something may have the same volume, even though it is a different
The aim of
Samuel and Bryant’s study wasto challenge Piaget's findings
by altering the method used by Piaget.
participants were 252 boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 8.5.
They children were divided into
four age groups of 63 children, whose mean ages were;
5 years 3 months
6 years 3 months
7 years 3 months
8 years 3 months
Each group was divided into 3
subgroups which underwent a different condition.
The three conditions were:
1Standard: This is
the traditional two question conservation task as carried out by
Piaget. The child is asked about the size of the object before and
after the shape was changed.
2 One judgement:
This is a conservation task like the original but this time with
only one question asked, the post transformation question. That is,
the child is only asked once about the size of the object and this
is after the transformation has taken place.
3 Fixed array control:
In this condition the child saw no transformation being made and
only saw the post-transformation display. That is, the child just
saw the objects after they had been changed and not before. The
purpose of this third condition was to check that children who
answered the post-transformation question correctly in the other two
conditions did so by bringing over information from the
Three different types of material
were used for the conservation tasks - mass (Playdoh), number
(counters) and volume (liquid).
(a) Mass: In this task
children in condition 1 and 2 were first shown two equal and
identical Playdoh cylinder shapes. The transformation was to squash
one of these shapes into a sausage. After this, the children were
asked to compare the cylinder and the sausage. The children in
condition 3 also made this comparison without seeing the first
display or the transformation.
(b) Number: In this task
children in condition 1 and 2 were shown two rows of counters of
equal length arranged side by side in one to one correspondence.
The rows contained six counters. Then one row was spread out or
bunched up. The condition 3 children saw only the
(c) Volume: In this task
children in conditions 1 and 2 were first shown two identical
glasses with the same amounts of liquid. Then the liquid from one
glass was poured into a narrower one or a shallow wider one. The
condition 3 children saw only the post-transformation displays.
The researchers recorded the
number of errors children made in the tests.
There were three main findings.
1. As predicted by Samuel and
Bryant, children found the one judgement task significantly easier
(they made less errors) than the standard conservation task and the
fixed-array control. This was true of all three types of material.
Samuel and Bryant also found
2. There was a significant
difference between the age groups, with older groups doing
consistently better than the younger.
3. The children made fewer
errors on the number task compared with the other two tasks
Samuel and Bryant gave an
explanation for why children make fewer errors on the one judgement
conservation task compared to the standard conservation task. They
believe that in the standard conservation task, the
pre-transformation question is unwittingly forcing the child to give
the wrong answer by asking the same question twice (they call this
the extraneous reason hypothesis).
For example if the child is asked
a question about the volume of beakers and then sees the
experimenter pour the liquid from one beaker into another, the child
might believe that the experimenter must be doing it for a reason
and therefore want the child to give a different answer.