Child Psychology


The main purpose of this investigation is to find the nature of children??™s scientific way of thinking, with particular reference to the concepts of why do things sink or float, and apply theories to make sense of what they observe.
Two participants were selected, they were both female, one was aged 8 and the other aged 12.
The design of the method included both hard and soft materials all of different shapes and sizes, a plastic container filled with water and a set of scales.

The older child had more knowledge than the younger child as to why things sank or floated.


This assignment included research into children??™s scientific way of thinking, and how they become to have a knowledge of their language and physical environments. They have different explanations as to why different objects either float or sink in water.
The aim is to find , if children of different ages have different answers to scientific questions, and how they behave when their reactions are challenged.
It will mention Vygotsky??™s zone of proximal development and Piaget??™s research into mathematical reasoning, and cognitive change processes.
Also included is Christine Howe??™s An understanding of what influences motion and An investigation into intensive and extensive qualities ( Nunes.)

Also mentioned are the obstacles that effect a child??™s development and their scientific way of thinking. Nunes lemon juice experiment will be included in their findings. It could be said that this particular research is related the investigation Piaget and Inhelder pioneered. They pointed out that it is when children have to understand change, for example when Remy could not grasp the concept of the grapefruit she invented a theory as to why (because its waxy). This relates their sugar in the water experiment , and this suggest that older children have a better knowledge of scientific thinking, as predicted would be the outcome for this assignment.

Method Section.

The length of interview for Remy was 35 minutes and Jessica 30 minutes.
Two children were selected, one aged 8 the other aged 12, each child is shown 8 objects and the child is then asked to make a prediction of what will happen to a particular object if it were placed in a tank of water, would it sink or float and why.
Each object was placed in a tank of water and the child was then asked what happened.
The materials used in the experiment were a set of scales and a tank of water, while the objects consisted of 2 blocks of wood , a spanner, a grapefruit, a ball, a needle, a rubber band, a pencil, a rubber eraser, a penny and a small and large tin of lentils.
Participants, especially children, should be clearly informed about the research so they can freely consent to take part, once they have understood the main part of the research.
In order to do this, the participant should be informed of the part they will play in the data collection.
Participants are given time to decide whether or not they want to take part.
For children this is not always practical, because children under the age of sixteen are not considered competent enough to give consent, so parents or guardians are considered legally able to do so on their behalf.
However this holds the risk of children not having enough say in expressing their approval or disapproval in the research participation.
If there is any video recording during the research not only does the parents consent have to be gained but also the permission of the child, renewal of consent is also asked for when the child reaches the age of sixteen.
The B.P.S recognises that explicit written consent may not be appropriate for very young children, instead researchers pay attention to children??™s non verbal behaviour such as body language, to see how comfortable they are with the research being carried out, such as video recordings.
Signals, such as the child becoming very quiet or responding to questions with one word answers and other signs that a child is uncomfortable such as looking anxiously around or looking at the floor, can be taken as a withdrawal of assent. This is taken as a sign to either modify the procedure or terminate it altogether.
It is in agreement with the recognised requirements for ethical research, to allow the participants to withdraw consent at any time, and any information about the participant should be destroyed.

Results Section

First interview analysis was of Remy aged eight. She only presented the facts but was unsure of the reasons. For example when asked if the ball or the candle would float she answered yes, but when asked why her first answere was that candles float because they are light. Her second answere was that the ball and the pencil are light but the candle is lighter than heavy.

Again just the facts were given when asked about the heavy sinkers such as the rock her answere to why they sank was because it was heavy. The explanation for the floatation of the grapfruit was the juice feels heavy but it is not. Her second explanation was that the grapefruit was that is was waxy like a lemon.

The older child Jessica had more knowledge as predicted in the main theories, she had more knowledge about density and mass. She explains why a candle floats in more structured detail she says it floats because lemons float and they are waxy as are candles. When asked about the scale test she was more clear in her responses than Remy, for example she recognised that both tins would float and she gave an explanation why. She said that both contained different amouts, the small one was more solid and the large one contained more air. The results of this analyisis found Remy 24 initially and 11 for stages 6-7. Jessica score however was 19 initially and 12 for stages 6-7.


The main pupose of this investigation is to find the nature of children??™s scientific way of thinking, with particular refrence to the concept of why things sink and float.

Children have good working knowledge about these properties, but many questions are left to be answered, for example what kind of understanding do they have, where does it come from, and how does it relate to the scientific understanding which they will meet in school.

It is argued that children aquire an understanding of their language and physical enviroments and that they try to put this understanding in order. They develop meaning by categorizing them, not just the main two characteristics of the eviroment, but also the similarities and differences between the aspects of it. They put lables to them and to their own mental states. They learn to use language to communicate their ideas and needs, and through this communication they gain knowledge about how the world around them works, also how other people tink, this in turn enables them to move to a higher level of thought. For example why things sink and float, and why they are more able to deal with hypothetical situations. This is especially true when they aquire mathematical and scientific understanding of their enviroment.

Piaget??™s theory also suggests that what children are capable of learning depends partially in what they haved in their heads already, as well as on the learning context in which they find themselves.

Vygotsky however argued that while children might develop some ideas of their own through everyday experiences, at any particular point in time a child has a zone of proximal development and so he believed that learning is an interpersonal experience. He contrasted with Piaget, he stressed the role of adult as teacher in helping the child to reach a higher level of understanding, and he states that the child would not be capable of doing this alone.
Vygotsky had the concept of the zone of proximal development, and he believed that all higher psychological functions have socio-cultural origins. This theory is different from Piatet. Piaget??™s concept of assimilation is replaced in Vygotsky??™s theory of approximation, by this he means the use of cultural tools. Cultural tools such as computers or language, this is because their characteristics tell us little about how they might be used. It is our history and culture that explains how to use them. Vygotsky sees culture and society as a means means for providing children with the tools for learning and the knowledge to be learned about.

He sees it as a interpersonal process, but teachers have to guid children through the zone of proximal development, by thinking of ways in which they and the children can work with two different understandings of the piece of work to be done, the teachers and the childs.

Piaget??™s hypothesis about how cognitive change processes was later changed into a teaching approach now termed discovery learning, and this is considered to be the ???lone learner??™ rout. The teacher took control of learning situations that challenged the pupils reasoning. There was no peer influence, although it was found in later research that interpersonal conflict, particularly with the peers could play an important role in promoting cognitive chang. (Perret-Clermont1980) (Doise and Mugny 1984)

Christine Howe (1992) compared 8-12 year olds children??™s progress in understanding what influences motion down a slope. In order to find whether the role of conflict in group work they made up two kinds of groups and each group had different views to the other and in the other group they had similar views to each other. Howe found no evidence to suggest the idea that children worked out their new concept during their group discussions, because progess was not actually observed in a post test immediately after the session of group work, but rather in a delayed post test, that is a second test of how the children understand motion down a slop, and this was givern around four weeks after the group work.
There are also obsticals that interfere with the development of children??™s scientific reasoning, for example their everyday conflicts they experience in their enviroment often influenc their scientific way of thinking.

One of the obsticals to effect scientific thinking is that many conceps represent intensive rather than extensive quantities. Extensive quantities such as height and weight, and intensive quantites which include density, speed and force

An everyday intensive quantity is taste. For example how sweet is a glass of lemon juice will depend on the amount of sugar you add. There is also an inverse relationship between the amount of lemon juice and sweetness, the more lemon juice in the glass the sweeter it will taste (Nunes et al 2002) conducted an ivestgation demonstrate the difficulty with inverse relations for children.

The finding of this investigation were consistant with the original predictions. The results found that the age of the child did relate to their predictions, the explanations they gave, also their reactins were different when theories were challenged, and how most younger children only know the facts and not the reasons for them.


In conclusion the results showed that Jessica the older child showed more scientific knowledge than Remy the younger child.


Method and Skills hand book.
Writing practical reports sec 16

Book 3 chapter 7 Cognitive and language development in children.
Piaget??™s developmental theory

Vygotsky zone of proximity.

(Perret-Clermont1980) (Doise and Mugny 1984)

Christine Howe (1992)