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Developmental changes of large-scale spatial representation in preschool children

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Sekine, K. (2007). Developmental changes of large-scale spatial representation in preschool children. Talk presented at the 3rd Conference of the International Society for Gesture Studies. Chicago, IL, USA. 2007-06-18 - 2007-06-21.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002C-0A4D-3
This longitudinal study investigated how large-scale spatial representation changed between the age of 4 and 6 years old. Fifteen children were asked to describe their route home from the nursery school once a year, for three years. Their spatial “Frames of Reference” (FoR) and point of view as indices of a spatial representation were inferred from their spontaneous gestures and speech produced during the route description. 54 Analysis of children’s utterances and gestures showed that the mean length of utterance, speech time, and use of landmarks or right/left terms to describe a route, all increased with age. When children were 4 year s old, most of them made gestures aligned with the actual route to their homes, and their hands tended to be raised above the shoulder. In contrast, as a 6-year-old, gestures were used to give directions that did not match the actual route , as if the children were creating a virtual space in front of themselves. They also tended to produce more gesture- units and to use a smaller gesture space than when they were younger. These results indicate that the development of FoR in preschool age may change from an egocentric FoR to a fixed FoR. The fixed FoR is based on external landmarks as a reference point. Moreover, some 5- and 6-year-olds depicted their routes as a map on the floor, which can be considered to represent survey mapping. This study suggests that when children are 4 years old, they have a predominantly topological route representation but that by the time they are 5 and 6 years old, they also have a coordinated survey-type representation. This implies that a coordinated representation is available earlier than Piaget argued. Factors underlying the development of spatial representation such as verbal encoding skills and the commuting experience were also discussed