Imaginative Play and Logical Thinking in Young Children

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  • This article was downloaded by: [FU Berlin]On: 28 October 2014, At: 04:28Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    The Journal of Genetic Psychology:Research and Theory on HumanDevelopmentPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vgnt20

    Imaginative Play and LogicalThinking in Young ChildrenEstelle Peisach a & Mildred Hardeman ba Pratt Institute , USAb Department of Psychology Queens College , City Universityof New York , USAPublished online: 02 Jul 2010.

    To cite this article: Estelle Peisach & Mildred Hardeman (1985) Imaginative Play and LogicalThinking in Young Children, The Journal of Genetic Psychology: Research and Theory onHuman Development, 146:2, 233-248, DOI: 10.1080/00221325.1985.9914451

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00221325.1985.9914451

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    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 146(2), 233-249

    Imaginative Play and Logical Thinking in Young Children

    ESTELLE PEISACH Pratt Institute

    MILDRED HARDEMAN Department of Psychology

    Queens College, City University of New York

    ABSTRACT. To examine the relationship between imaginative play and logical thinking in young children, 65 children ranging in age from 4 to 7 years were inter- viewed or observed to assess their level of imaginative play and were administered Piaget-derived logical-thinking tasks. It was found that the relationship varied across ages. Imaginative play was positively correlated with social perspective taking in 5- and 6-year-old children. Imaginative play was negatively correlated with spatial perspective taking and multiplication of classes in 5-year-old children.

    THE QUESTION OF THE ROLE of imagination in the development of cognition has become prominent through the work of Piaget, Vigotsky, and Singer. Imaginative play, in Piagets theory (1962), is a basic component of the second stage of cognitive development, providing the framework for the use of symbols that is essential for subsequent logical thinking. According to Piaget, imaginative play begins in the childs second year and starts to decline after about the fifth year.

    For Vigotsky (1981), the essence of play is that it gives the child cognitive freedom from concrete reality, and Vigotsky sees this as an im- possible occurrence before about the age of 3. Play in young children, therefore, is a stage between the purely situational constraints of early childhood and adult thought, which can be totally free of real situations. Thus, further cognitive development could not occur without the liberating effects of imaginative - play.

    More detailed information concerning the tasks may be obtained by writing to Estelle Peisach.

    Requests for reprints should be sent to Estelle Peisach, 3 Washington Square Village, Apartment 5A, New York, NY 10012.

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  • 234 The Journal of Genetic Psychology

    Whereas Piaget and Vigotsky see the young childs imaginative play as constituting a developmental stage without which more mature logical thought cannot take place, Singer (1973) views imagination (and im- aginative play) not as a developmental stage but rather as a cognitive skill that can be acquired and can enhance intellectual functioning and the qual- ity of life throughout the life span. All three theories suggest the likelihood of a close relationship between the two variables; that is, children who have a highly developed imagination might also have more skill in dealing with logical problems, at least at certain ages.

    The works of Smilansky (1968) and Singer (1973) stimulated investiga- tion of this relationship, and Fein (1981) and Chrystie and Johnson (1983) have reviewed subsequent research. Although Watson and Fischer (1977) found no relationship between symbolic play and cognition in late infancy, several studies dealing with young children, from about age 3 to 5 , have provided some support for the hypothesis: correlational studies by Rubin and Maioni (1975) and Johnson (1976); training studies by Freyburg (1973), Rosen (1974), Fink (1976), Golomb and Cornelius (1977), Saltz, Dixon, and Johnson (1977), Smith and Syddall(1978), and Burns and Brainerd (1979). The literature suggests that the relationship may vary for different areas of cognition and that childrens propensity for imaginative play may be more relevant to their cognitive functioning at one age than at another. The pres- ent study was designed to explore more fully the following questions: (a) Is there a relationship between imaginative play and cognition as manifested in childrens responses to a variety of Piaget-type logical thinking tasks; and (b) does the relationship between imaginative play and logical thinking vary as a function of age?

    Method

    Sample

    Subjects, aged 4 through 7, came from a small, metropolitan private school having one class in each grade. The emphasis in the school is on learning through experience and play, particularly in the early grades. Imagination is accepted by the staff. The sample (a total of 65 children) consisted of the prekindergarten 4-year-old class (n = 10, M age = 58.60 months), kindergarten (n = 13, Mage = 69.57 months), and first- (n = 21, Mage = 82.40 months) and second-grade (n = 21, M age = 94.10 months) classes. Permission slips were mailed home to parents, and a range of 68% to 88% of the children in each class were granted permission to participate in the study. Of the children granted permission, 6 were not tested because of a lack of time at the end of the school year. Most of the children in the selected grades, however, were included in the sample.

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  • Peisach & Hardeman 235

    Data Collection Naturalistic observation was used for examining imaginative play in the 4-year-old children. Each child was observed in two separate contexts, structured and unstructured, for 10-min intervals. Singers interview schedule (1973), designed to evaluate a childs level of imagination, was used with the children aged 5 through 7. These interviews took place prior to administration of the cognitive battery, which was administered to all the children, including the 4-year-olds, individually on a different occasion. All testing was done by three women, one of the investigators and two graduate students. A small room was used, with the child and the examiner sitting across from each other at a rectangular table.

    Evaluating the Childs Level of Imaginative Play Observation procedure. Singers method for observation of childrens im- aginative play was designed for 5-year-old children. In the present study, it was found in a pilot project that his method was too global for the less organized and less sustained imaginative play of 4-year-olds. The following rating method was, therefore, designed to provide a more specific analysis and evaluation of the 4-year-old childrens imaginative play.

    An Imaginative Play Work Sheet was devised to record the content, frequency, and length of time of the components of imaginative behavior: type of play, degree of closeness to real-life situations, attribution of human characteristics to animal figures, representation of an object as something else, evidence of a nonvisible participant, simulated vocalizations, and role playing. Two scorers independently obtained scores based on the total fre- quency and cumulative time spent in imaginative behavior by each child in both contexts. The possible scores ranged from 0 to 11, with 10 representing either 10 or more instances of imaginative behavior or prolonged sequences of imaginative play lasting nearly 10 min or exactly 10 min. One point was added if a child resisted interruption of play by another person to any degree. The distribution of these scores was trichotomized: no or little imaginative play (scores of 0 to 3), medium imaginative play (scores of 4 to 7), and high imaginative play (scores of 8 to 11). With one exception, for 28 protocols, there was perfect agreement between the two raters scores. The correlation between scores obtained in the unstructured and structured situations was .76. This value may have been inflated because of the same-day observations.

    Interview. Singer (1973) successfully used the following series of questions to evaluate the level of imagination in children 5 years of age and older:

    1. What is your favorite game? What do you like to play the most? 2. What game do you like to play best when youre all alone? What

    do you like to do best when youre all alone? Do you ever think things up?

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  • 236 The Journal of Genetic Psychology

    3. DO you ever have pictures in your head? Do you ever see make- believe things or pictures in your mind and think about them? What sort of things?

    4. Do you have a make-believe friend? Do you have an animal or toy or make-believe person you talk to or take along places with you?

    Singer used a 5-point scale (0 to 4) to score the interview, one point for each of the four questions that elicited a response indicating imaginative or fantasy play. In the present study, certain difficulties were found in using Singers scoring procedure. First, virtually all the children responded yes to the questions regarding pictures in your head. Including this question in the score was tantamount to adding a constant. For Item 4, Singer as- signed a score of 1 whether the child said he had an imaginary friend or reported taking a toy with him. Consequently, most of the children in the present study were assigned a score of 1 for this item. It seems likely that the children in the present study were a more homogeneous sample than those interviewed by Singer.

    Therefore, in addition to scoring the childrens responses according to Singers system, another scoring system was devised. In the present study, 34 children reported the existence of an imaginary friend, and 31 reported that they had no such friend, reflecting maximum variation for this part of Question 4. The components of Question 4 were elaborated to devise a 6-point (0 to 5 ) Make-Believe Friend Scale. Each of the following responses was assigned 1 point: yes to having an imaginary friend, talking to a make-believe person, talking to a make-believe animal, talking to a toy, and taking a make-believe friend places.

    Singers scale and the Make-Believe Friend Scale were both used in the analysis of the relationship between imaginative play and logical thinking.

    The Cognitive Battery

    The cognitive battery was designed to assess childrens logical capacities in four areas as defined by Piaget: multiplication of classes, class inclusion, spatial viewpoint of the other, and social viewpoint of the other. The battery was designed so that testing time would not exceed 20 min per individual.

    Multiplication of classes. The purpose of the tasks in this area was to measure the childs ability to deal with two dimensions simultaneously. Four matrix boards consisted of (a) four geometric shapes x four colors, (b) four modes of transportation x four colors, (c) three sizes x three col- ors, and (d) three sizes x three shapes. These were presented one at a time to the child. Each board had one empty cell. The examiner, pointing to the empty cell, asked what belonged there. If the child responded either incor- rectly or did not respond, a matching card with similar objects was shown to

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  • Peisach & Hardeman 237

    the child. The examiner, pointing to the empty cell, said, Show me the one that belongs there on the board. A maximum score of 2 points could be earned for each board. One point was assigned for the correct identification of each dimension; for example, for a red train, 1 point for the color red and 1 point for the mode of transportation were assigned. A maximum score of 8 points could be obtained for the four boards. No distinction was made between a correct response that was given verbally and one that was indicated by pointing to the correct object.

    A total of 8 points was assigned for a perfect score in the conjunctive language task. First, four red candles varying in height and width were presented to the child. The child was told, Point to the candle that is both (a) taller and fatter, (b) shorter and thinner, (c) thinner and taller, or (d) fat- ter and shorter than the other candles. One point was assigned for each correctly identified dimension of the candle selected.

    The child was then presented with four sets of buttons and told, Please point to the set of buttons that has (a) more buttons and larger but- tons than the other sets of buttons, (b) fewer and smaller buttons, (c) smaller and more buttons, or (d) larger and fewer buttons than the other sets of buttons. Again, 1 point was assigned for each correctly identified dimension in the set of buttons selected.

    Cluss inclusion items. Each child was asked three sets of questions concern- ing whether there are more cows or more animals, more dresses (pants) or more clothes, more men or more policemen, and the reason for each answer. The child could obtain 2 points for each set of questions (a total of 6 points), 1 point fo...

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