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Memory performance as related to individual differences with respect to a unified formal-operational structure Groves, Muriel Kathleen

Abstract

The major aims of the study were to identify individual differences with respect to a unified formal-operational structure, independent of age and IQ, and to relate these to predictable differences in memory performance on a variety of tasks. Fifty-six female grade seven students were administered the vocabulary test of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children and four Piagetian tasks, the chemical combinations, pendulum, balance, and conservation and measurement of volume tasks. In a later session, they were administered eight memory tasks, each designed to be related both to general formal-operational ability and to one or more particular Piagetian schemes or concepts. The latter included the conservation of occupied volume, the understanding of combinations and permutations, and the method of holding variables constant to test the effect of others. Memory of the displays was tested immediately and four weeks later. The two hypotheses concerning the unified structure of formal-operations were confirmed. First, even when the effects of age and IQ were removed statistically, significant positive correlations were found between performance on each of the four formal-operational tasks and the average of performance on the other three tasks. Second, a principal components analysis revealed that the first component accounted for a substantial 89 percent of the variance of the assessment tasks. The principal hypothesis concerning memory performance as related to formal-operational competency was confirmed. Even when the effects of age and IQ were removed, average Piagetian task performance was significantly correlated with overall memory performance in the original (r = .47) and retest (r = .36) periods. Furthermore, average Piagetian task performance showed positive and, particularly in the original testing period, often significant correlations with performance on the specific memory tasks. Two subsidiary hypotheses were not confirmed. In general, performance on particular Piagetian tasks thought to be measuring specific formal-operational schemes or concepts was not significantly related to performance on particular memory tasks also thought related to the schemes. Secondly, contrary to expectations based on a hypothesized considerable deterioration in memory performance over time on the part of concrete-operational Ss who did well initially, the magnitude of the relationship between Piagetian task performance and memory performance decreased rather than increased from the original to the retest period. Possible reasons for the lack of confirmation of these two hypotheses were discussed. Also, the discussion concerned the positive findings as related to the concept of a unified formal-operational structure, possible design weaknesses in studies not finding consistency of performance across formal tasks, the selection of tasks providing optimal measurement of formal-operational ability, and the distinction between the psychometric and Piagetian concepts of intelligence. Finally, the finding of a relatively high percentage of Ss (42.9) at the formal-operational stage was discussed in terms of the methodology of the present study and the possibility of the universal achievement of formal operations.

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