Piaget Conservation Tasks: definitions, applications in psychology

Marketing Dept., | 8 min read
Marketing Dept., | 8 min read

Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, is renowned for his pioneering work in child development. His theory of cognitive development has profoundly influenced our understanding of how children think, learn, and grow. One of the key concepts in Piaget's theory is the conservation task, a set of experiments designed to demonstrate children's cognitive abilities at different stages of development.

Who is Piaget?

Jean Piaget was born in 1896 in Switzerland and initially trained in natural sciences before turning to psychology. His interest in how children acquire knowledge led him to develop his theory of cognitive development, which is divided into four stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational. Each stage represents a different level of thinking and understanding in a child's development. Piaget's conservation tasks are most commonly associated with the transition from the preoperational to the concrete operational stage, typically occurring between the ages of 7 and 11.

What are the Piaget's Conservation Tasks?

Piaget's conservation tasks are a series of experiments that demonstrate whether children understand that certain properties of objects remain the same despite changes in the objects' appearance. These tasks focus on different aspects of conservation, such as number, volume, mass, and length. For example, in the conservation of liquid task, a child is shown two identical glasses of water with equal amounts of water. When the water from one glass is poured into a taller, narrower glass, the child is asked if the amount of water has changed. A child who understands conservation will recognize that the amount of water remains the same despite the change in the glass's shape.

Piaget Conservation Tasks Examples

Here are some Piaget Conservation tasks examples for application:

Conservation of Number: In this task, children are shown two identical rows of coins, equally spaced. When the spacing of the coins in one row is changed, children are asked if there are still the same number of coins in each row. Younger children in the preoperational stage often say that the longer row has more coins, while older children in the concrete operational stage recognize that the number of coins remains unchanged.

Conservation of Mass: This task involves two identical balls of clay. One ball is flattened into a pancake shape, and the child is asked if the amount of clay has changed. Children who understand conservation know that the amount of clay is the same, regardless of its shape.


Conservation of Volume (Liquid): As described earlier, this task tests whether children understand that the amount of liquid remains the same when poured into containers of different shapes.


How to Conduct Piaget's Conservation Tasks

To conduct a Piaget conservation task, follow these steps:

  1. Preparation: Gather materials such as identical glasses, coins, balls of clay, or other objects relevant to the specific conservation task.
  2. Presentation: Present the objects to the child in their original, identical form.
  3. Transformation: Change the appearance of one set of objects (e.g., pour water into a differently shaped glass, rearrange coins, or reshape clay).
  4. Questioning: Ask the child whether the amount or quantity of the objects has changed.
  5. Observation: Record the child's response and note whether they understand that the properties remain constant despite changes in appearance.


Piaget's conservation tasks are essential tools in understanding cognitive development in children. They reveal how children's thinking evolves as they grow and how they come to understand fundamental concepts about the world around them. By conducting these tasks, educators and parents can gain valuable insights into a child's cognitive abilities and development stage.

Using these tasks and observing children's responses can also help tailor educational strategies to support their learning effectively. Understanding Piaget's conservation tasks enhances our ability to nurture cognitive development and encourages us to appreciate the complexity and richness of children's growing minds.


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