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Children's errors in copying angles: Perpendicular error or bisection error?

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date1982
Number of pages9
Original languageEnglish


Following Piaget and Inhelder's work, considerable evidence has accrued showing that young children have difficulty constructing the horizontal and vertical in particular drawing tasks. However, one recent study by Ibbotson and Bryant interpreted these difficulties as lying with angle reproduction rather than representation of horizontal and vertical. Their conclusion was that children of 3 to 5 years distort acute angles to look more like right angles. A study is reported which tests the hypothesis that this is a particular case of a general tendency to bisect angles. The results support this hypothesis. 5-year-old children reproduced bisected figures accurately, but distorted nonbisected figures towards bisection, despite the fact that they contained a right angle. The simplest interpretation is that children's representations of the figures are distorted: either locally, by angle bisection, or by increasing symmetry of the figure as a whole. One puzzling result emerged. The bisection effect only appeared with oblique-baseline figures. The tentative interpretation is that, when the baseline is horizontal or vertical, children can easily note that nonbisected figures are asymmetrical about vertical or horizontal axes, and hence resist the tendency to distort representations towards symmetry.