Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Joseph LaVoie


The effect of experience, as measured by CA, and intelligence on conservation and classification ability was systematically investigated, using groups of retarded and normal subjects matched on MA and CA. Three groups of subjects were matched on a MA of 72 months: a group of 12-year old retarded subjects, a group of 16-year old retarded subjects, and a group of 6-year old normal subjects. The 6-year old normal group was also matched on CA with a mentally retarded group whose MA was 36 months. Three conservation tasks (some-all, a resemblance sorting, hierarchical classification) using both routine test items and real life items (candy and juice) were used. The results indicated that MA was the best predictor of both conservation and classification ability. Subjects also performed better on tasks using real life objects. The results offer support for a number of theoretical assumptions, such as, Inhelder's (1968) theory of "fixed operational thought," Piaget's concept of horizontal decalage, and Flavell and Wohwill's (1969) competence-performance model. It was also demonstrated that mentally retarded children were just as likely to resist the counter suggestion of the experimenter as were normal children. All children showed more confidence in their decisions when real life objects were used, by demonstrating greater resistance to counter suggestion on these tasks. The effects of educational experience and individual differences among the subjects were discussed.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Psychology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright William J. Doucette August, 1978