Faculté des lettres

Zooming in on spatial scaling: Preschool children and adults use mental transformations to scale spaces

Möhring, Wenke ; Newcombe, Nora S. ; Frick, Andrea

In: Developmental Psychology, 2014, vol. 50, no. 5, p. 1614-1619

Spatial scaling is an important prerequisite for many spatial tasks and involves an understanding of how distances in different-sized spaces correspond. Previous studies have found evidence for such an understanding in preschoolers; however, the mental processes involved remain unclear. The present study investigated whether children and adults use mental transformations to scale distances in... Plus

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    Summary
    Spatial scaling is an important prerequisite for many spatial tasks and involves an understanding of how distances in different-sized spaces correspond. Previous studies have found evidence for such an understanding in preschoolers; however, the mental processes involved remain unclear. The present study investigated whether children and adults use mental transformations to scale distances in space. Adults and 4- and 5-year-old children (N = 60) were asked to use maps to locate target objects in a larger referent space on a touchscreen. The size of the referent space was held constant, but the sizes of the maps were varied systematically, resulting in seven scaling factors. A linear increase in response times and errors with increasing scaling factor suggested that participants of every age group mentally transformed the size of the map to compare it to the referent, providing evidence for an analog imagery strategy in children’s and adults’ spatial scaling.