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Title: A study of co-operation in problem solving between children of different intelligence levels
Author: Asencio-Weber, Daisy
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 1961
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The research described in this thesis deals with a topic that has received rather little attention in recent years, namely, co-operative problem-solving behaviour in young children. Owing to a lack of previous data the experiment was necessarily exploratory in nature and 78 children, drawn from 3 different schools participated. Each child was required to solve 2 kinds of problem under 3 conditions - (a) on his (or her) own, and (b) with a partner of the same M.A. and C.A., and (c) with a partner of the same M.A. and different C.A. The tasks were roughly equated for difficulty and the intention was to compare the children's performance under the 3 different conditions. In view of the increasing popularity of Bales' method of analysing Interaction Processes it was decided to adopt and at the same time to test his system in the present experiment. For reasons that will be clear in the main discussion it was also decided to introduce an additional "concentration" category in order to render the data more meaningful. An important but unexpected finding was that the Bales' system of categories shows serious weaknesses when applied to young children and full particulars of these are elaborated in the main discussion. Because of these weaknesses in the Bales technique the results are less conclusive than they might have been. Nevertheless a detailed statistical analysis of the data strongly suggests that if a child is made to work [willingly or otherwise] in partnership with a child of a different age, the main effect is to bring about rather sharp changes in what Bales describes as the "negative emotional areas". In other words it is patterns of hostility rather than patterns of co-operation and task involvement which are mostaffected by the different kinds of pairing. In particular there is evidence that it is generally more disturbing for a child to be paired with an older partner than with a younger. However, even this tendency appears to vary for different ages and considerable individual differences appear to be present. For instance one child may welcome the opportunity to show off in front of a younger partner whereas another child may regard a younger partner as a nuisance or even as a threat (if there is any possibility of the younger partner solving the problem first). These and similar problems are discussed in some detail in the main discussion. Finally, consideration is given to various methodological difficulties. Apart from all the usual difficulties due to uncontrolled variables etc. a special difficulty arises from the fact that Bales' system breaks down the interaction process in a rather artificial way. It will accordingly be argued that there is definite scope for broader and psychologically more meaningful categories such as the present writer' s "concentration" category. Yet another difficulty arises from the possible complaint that the experimenter's co-operative situation is too artificial to be legitimately described as "co-operative". This complaint about artificiality is one that all social researchers have to meet. In this particular experiment it can be met by showing that the experimental situation does indeed conform to the various definitions that other theorists have given to the concept of co-operation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Behavioral Psychology