We discuss the limitations of hypothesis testing using (quasi-) experiments in the study of cognitive development and suggest latent variable modeling as a viable alternative to experimentation. Latent variable models allow testing a theory as a whole, incorporating individual differences with respect to developmental processes or abilities in the model. Experiments, in contrast, aim at testing hypotheses that refer to a specific part of a theory; also they ignore individual differences or model the individual differences using age group as a proxy for developmental stage. Drawing on a sample of 409 5-13-year olds, we demonstrate the advantages of latent variable models in the area of transitive reasoning. A comparison of three models showed that the latent variable model that represented fuzzy trace theory had a better fit than the models representing Piaget's theory or linear ordering theory.

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doi.org/10.1016/j.cogdev.2012.03.001, hdl.handle.net/1765/65760
Cognitive Development
Department of Psychology

Bouwmeester, S., Vermunt, J., & Sijtsma, K. (2012). The latent variable approach as applied to transitive reasoning. Cognitive Development, 27(2), 168–180. doi:10.1016/j.cogdev.2012.03.001