TSC: An early 20th century Swiss psychologist by the name of Jean Piaget developed a comprehensive theory as to the cognitive development of children. He identified several discrete stages of development that all children go through, but which are heavily reliant on concepts which are taught to them or concepts that they pick up from their society’s cultural norms. Piaget called this process “Assimilation”.
Here we have a video of an experiment which took place in a laboratory setting. The video demonstrates a stage of cognitive development which Piaget labeled “the preoperational stage”. This stage occurs between ages two and six, and during this stage, children do not yet understand concrete logic, cannot mentally manipulate information, and are unable to take the point of view of other people. They also have trouble understand the concept of conservation (the idea that two things can be equal even though they are differently spaced).
Remember that Piaget believed that children cannot move from one stage to the next without the process of Assimilation. So, is it possible that we (as a society) are stuck in “the preoperational stage” when it comes to height because no one in our society has Assimilated us to the idea that two individuals can be equal, even though one is taller or bigger? Granted; this theory stretches Piaget’s theory to the breaking point, but it’s worth consideration. Notice how the fallacies expressed by the little girls in these experiments are much like the fallacies expressed by adults in real life when it comes to human height.
Take the first girl in the experiment. She is probably about four years old. In three years, she will have no problem understanding that the two glasses of liquid are the same even though one is tall and one is short. But if you did this experiment with that same child twenty years from now; she probably wouldn’t be able to come to the same conclusion in guessing who weighs more between two men who are of equal weight but different heights. This is because she has been “Assimilated” through society to believe that the taller man is probably heavier, even if this is not the case. One might even wonder whether she could correctly answer the question while observing the two men standingon separate scales.