Get access

Conservation and conversation types: Forms of recognition and cognitive development


Correspondence should be addressed to Gerard Duveen, Department of Social and Developmental Psychology, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Cambridge, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RQ, UK (e-mail:


While the productive role of social interaction between peers in promoting cognitive development has been clearly established, the communicative processes through which this is achieved is less clearly understood. Earlier work has established that different types of conversation become established between children as they work together on a problem, and that these types have different implications for the progress of a non-conserver. The paper focuses on the forms of recognition that emerge within these different conversation types. It reports further analyses of a study in which 226 6.5- to 7.5-year-old children were presented with a Piagetian task of conservation of liquid. Conservers and non-conservers were asked to discuss in pairs their conflicting answers and agree upon a joint response. Cognitive progress was assessed by pre- to post-test gains. Analyses of the conversational moves made by each of the participants to the conversation indicates that both non-conservers and conservers not only make characteristic contributions, but that these contributions vary across the conversation types, and hence also relate differentially to the non-conserver's progress. More detailed qualitative analyses of the different conversation types provide insights into the ways in which different forms of recognition emerge through these interactions. These results are discussed in relation to a socio-cognitive account of development.