The development of children's ability to balance objects on a fulcrum: Examining Karmiloff-Smith's model of cognitive development

David Messer, Richard Joiner, Paul Light, Karen Littleton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A framework for considering the general process of cognitive development has been proposed by A. Karmiloff-Smith (1992). One domain Karmiloff-Smith considers is children's performance on balance tasks. This study investigates predictions derived from this framework by conducting 2 cross-sectional studies. Exp 1 examined whether 132 male and female 3-8 yr olds' behavior could be classified in terms of the 3 phases identified by Karmiloff-Smith (procedural, meta-procedural, and conceptual). Ss balanced across a fixed fulcrum involving symmetrical or asymmetrical beams. Exp 2 examined whether 128 male and female 3-8 yr olds perform in a consistent way on a balancing task, a paper and pencil task, and a computer task. Findings support the model, but also indicate that behavior on the balancing tasks is more variable than identified. It is suggested that this identification of additional levels of behavior may be useful in developing an understanding of the mechanism of cognitive process. Exp 2 revealed that, the absence of certain forms of information influenced performance. The more abstract nature of both paper and pencil and computer tasks did not disrupt behavior, and there were indications that performance on these tasks was more advanced than with physical beams. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-96
Number of pages16
JournalEducational Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1998


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