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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Conservation through conflict : do conflicting wrong solutions help children invent the right ones? McBride, Michelle L.


A total of 136 children from 5 to 8 years of age were presented with standard conservation of length and liquid tasks as well as story versions of those tasks. Half of the children were read stories in which the views of two non-conservers came into conflict, and the other half were read "conflict free" stories. Although the length conflict story was found to be significantly easier than the lenght task, the nonconflict story was not. In addition, the length conflict story was significantly easier than the length nonconflict story for the younger children (5-6 year-olds). However no significant differences were found among the liquid conditions. The results suggest that, for length, children's conservation performance was benefitted by cognitive conflict rather than merely the narrative format of the story problem and that children's reasoning can be affected by mere exposure to "socio-cognitive conflict". These results lend support to the controversial claim that symmetrical incorrect conflict is sufficient for stimulating cognitive development.

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