Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The emergence, learning and development of spatio-symbolic skills: Perspectives from analogical reasoning
by Tsubota, Yoko, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2009, 159; 3375519
Abstract (Summary)

Relational thinking is a central feature of human cognition, and one remarkable early cognitive achievement is the development of skills required to navigate searches based on relational reasoning. Previous studies indicate that children begin to use spatial relations such as distance coding before two years old (e.g., Huttenlocher, Newcome & Sandberg, 1994) and can search a location by using symbolic relations at around 3 years of age (e.g., Deloache, 1989). However, previous research also indicates that while young children are competent in spatial or symbolic reasoning, they fail to solve tasks involving spatio-symbolic reasoning skills (e.g., Loewenstein & Gentner, 2001).

This dissertation examines the development of spatio-symbolic skills in children between 2 and 5 years of ages using various spatio-symbolic tasks. Children were presented with a model room and a map representing the room, and were asked to find the corresponding locations. All three experiments required children to use spatial coordinates. In the preliminary experiment, the model room included both physically unique items and identical items between the spaces. In Experiment 1, the model room included only physically identical items. In Experiment 3, the model room included only physically unique items, each of which was depicted at a different spatial coordinate on the map.

This dissertation takes the perspective that the ability to use a map involves not only spatial and symbolic reasoning but also a form of analogical reasoning. I utilize theories on analogical reasoning as a framework for studying young children's ability to use a symbol in guiding a spatial search. The findings show that (1) children under 3 years old possess spatio-symbolic skills, (2) experience shapes the learning of these skills, and (3) with age, children learn these skills faster and require less physical similarity to map spatial coordinates. These findings support the hypotheses that children as young as toddlers, which is at much younger than previously thought, can appreciate relational similarities and map spaces based on spatial relations.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Chen, Zhe
School: University of California, Davis
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 70/09, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Early childhood education, Developmental psychology, Cognitive psychology
Keywords: Analogical reasoning, Map, Spatiosymbolic skills
Publication Number: 3375519
ISBN: 978-1-109-36808-6
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