Over the last twenty-five years children around the world have observed and responded to researchers who pour water from beaker to beaker, roll plasticene into snake-like figures, and arrange matchsticks into a potpourri of shapes. These cross-cultural experiments have been undertaken to test Piaget's theory of genetic epistemology, which posits a hierarchical, universal, and invariant sequence of stages of cognitive development. Piagetian research in varying cultures has revealed both striking similarities and marked differences in performance on cognitive tasks, some in apparent conflict with the basic assumptions of Piagetian stage theory. In this article Professor Ashton reviews a range of cross-cultural Piagetian research, analyzes the sometimes divergent findings from this research, and suggests methodological improvements which may help to resolve past dilemmas and to further future understanding of cognitive growth in different cultures.
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