Jean Piaget - Research Methods

Research Methods

Piaget wanted to revolutionize the way research methods were conducted. Although he started researching with his colleagues using a traditional method of data collection, he was not fully satisfied with the results and wanted to keep trying to find new ways of researching using a combination of data, which included: naturalistic observation, psychometrics, and the psychiatric clinical examination, in order to have a less guided form of research that would produce more genuine results. As Piaget developed new research methods, he wrote a book called The Language and Thought of the Child, which aimed to synthesize the methods he was using in order to study the conclusion children drew from situations and how they arrived to such conclusion. The main idea was to observe how children responded and articulated certain situations with their own reasoning, in order to examine their thought processes (Mayer, 2005).

Piaget administered a test in 15 boys with ages ranging from 10–14 years-old in which he asked participants to describe the relationship between a mix bouquet of flowers and a bouquet with flowers of the same color. The purpose of this study was to analyze the thinking process the boys had and to draw conclusions about the logic processes they had used, which was a psychometric technique of research. Piaget also used the psychoanalytic method initially developed by Sigmund Freud. The purpose of using such method was to examine the unconscious mind, as well as to continue parallel studies using different research methods. Psychoanalysis was later rejected by Piaget, as he thought it was insufficiently empirical (Mayer, 2005).

Piaget argued that children and adults used speech for different purposes. In order to confirm his argument, he experimented analyzing a child’s interpretation of a story. In the experiment, the child listened to a story and then told a friend that same story in his/her own words. The purpose of this study was to examine how children verbalize and understand each other without adult intervention. Piaget wanted to examine the limits of naturalistic observation, in order to understand a child’s reasoning. He realized the difficulty of studying children's thoughts, as it is hard to know if a child is pretending to believe their thoughts or not. Piaget was the pioneer researcher to examine children’s conversations in a social context - starting from examining their speech and actions - where children were comfortable and spontaneous (Kose, 1987).

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