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Conditions for Successful Performance by 4-Year-Olds in a Dimensional Coordination Task

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date1993
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Number of pages24
Original languageEnglish


Piaget and Inhelder (1956) claimed that children were unable to coordinate orthogonal spatial dimensions until the age of 8 or 9 years. Recent evidence, however, suggests that this ability begins to develop much earlier, at around 4 years, although it is not clear how well established the ability is at this age. The current study uses a variety of search tasks to investigate the conditions for success at this age. Four-year-olds who have to find an object by coordinating markers in orthogonal dimensions perform reasonably well if the task is set in a meaningful context in which orthogonal dimensions are cued by the imagined walked paths of two model people. Performance is particularly good when two imagined lines-of-sight are the dimensions to be coordinated and is superior to performance when explicit linear dimensions are provided by arrows. Additionally, performance under the line-of-sight-condition but not under the arrow condition carries over to a baseline condition in which no explicit or implicit linear cues are provided. These results are in keeping with the notion that young children perform better when tasks are set in a meaningful context and are also of interest in relation to the literature on children′s theory of mind through their indication that lines of sight can be both attributed to others and used very effectively in a spatial task.