Spurious “context effect” on number conservation tasks

Akira Nakagaki*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study was designed to examine so-called “context effect” on performance in number conservation tasks. Twenty-two nonconservers. (mean age 4 years 11 months), in standard number conservation tasks received same kind of tasks in three modified conditions. Main findings were as follows. In the first place, even the subjects who failed a one-to-one correspondence task gave conserving responses in a meaningful context. In the second place, many subjects gave “conserving” responses even in the condition in which the transformation of elements was accompanied with addition of one element and therefore non-conserving responses were in fact correct. In the third place, conserving responses could be induced even in a condition without context, if only a perceptual contrast of elements after transformation would be enough weakened. These results were interpreted as evidences of “degeneration theory”, proposed by the author, according to which conserving responses in a meaningful context would not mean the facilitation of conservation competence inherent in young children, but induced by evading cognitive perturbations which were essential in standard conservation tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-378
Number of pages10
JournalJapanese Journal of Educational Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • context effect
  • domain specificity of knowledge
  • number conservation task
  • precocious conservation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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