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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A comparison of the reversal shift task with two piagetian tasks Lake, Jean Baird


A study was undertaken to compare the performance of kindergarten children on the optional reversal shift task with their performance on two Piagetian tasks, the matrix and the two-way classification tasks. The comparison was suggested by the fact that the reversal shift task has been used by Kendler and Kendler (1962) to provide evidence of a cognitive change occurring in children between 5 and 7 years of age. Piaget (1964) has also suggested a major change in children's thinking in the same age range and has used the classification and matrix tasks to illustrate this change. Three major theoretical views concerning the reversal shift task were examined: the mediational hypothesis of Kendler and Kendler (1962), the attention theory viewpoint of Zeaman and House (1963) and the perceptual differentiation view of Tighe and Tighe (1968). A number of studies dealing with the classification tasks were reviewed. These included studies by Inhelder and Piaget (1964), Kofsky (1966) and Smedslund (1964). Matrix task studies by Inhelder and Piaget (1964), Overton and Brodzinsky (1972), Bruner and Kenney (1966) and Odom et al. (1965, 1971) were also reviewed. The Piagetian and reversal shift tasks were analyzed to identify their common features. It was argued that all three tasks required the child to recognize the abstract dimensions of stimuli and to be able to use the dimension values appropriately. Because of the similarities involved in the three tasks, it was suggested that a child in the transitional stage who could perform well on the Piagetian tasks would also tend to make a reversal shift on the Kendler task. It was therefore hypothesized that for children in the 5- to 7-year age range there should be a positive correlation between performance on the classification and matrix tasks and the tendency to make a reversal shift. An experiment was carried out with 34 kindergarten subjects performing the three tasks: the optional reversal shift, the two-way classification task and the matrix task. Results obtained on each task were similar to those of previous studies but the hypothesized relationship was not upheld. It was suggested that a group of subjects including slightly older children might show this relationship in a similar experiment. Other possible explanations for the lack of relationship were examined including: task format, verbal factors, inconsistent performance by children in the transition period, attentional and motivational factors and differential transfer effects. In conclusion, it was felt that the study reinforced the view that more knowledge is needed of the factors involved in learning tasks. Investigations drawing on different approaches would appear to be helpful in identifying these factors.

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