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Young children's ability to use maps and models to find ways in novel spaces

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date1998
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Number of pages21
Original languageEnglish


Previous research has demonstrated that even quite young children can use a map to find a location in space or follow a simple route. The present research investigates the effectiveness of different forms of representations of space as aids to route following by 4.5- and 5-year-old children. If the alignment between axes of map and space was broken by introduction of a 90 degree turn in the path of the route, performance declined markedly for both age groups. However, this drop in performance was not evident if children were provided with a linear map or model to aid them through the non-linear maze. In a five-choice linear maze, 5-year-olds performed better using a model than a map, and performance using the map was better following performance with the model. Thus it appears that whereas the spatial arrangement of the route need not be precisely reproduced in the representation, the more accurate match between space and its representation provided by a three-dimensional model of space still acts as a better aid to route finding. These apparently conflicting findings are in keeping with the notion that young children represent routes in terms of a sequence of turns at choice points without particular attention to the spatial arrangement of different parts of the route. Thus, although accurate representation of the spatial layout of choice points is unnecessary, at the same time a three-dimensional representation enhances performance by providing a better representation of the features of each choice point.