What is it about?

Children who heard geometric shapes and the location and orientation of objects named during brief play ("circle", "under", "corner") interactions improved on the spatial skill of mental rotation (i.e., the ability to mentally manipulate a visual representation of an object and recognize its appearance from a different orientation) relative to children who engaged in the same play activities but heard only general references (e.g., "shape," "here," "there").

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Why is it important?

The present results show that increasing children's experience with spatial language promotes the development of mental rotation, a spatial skill that predicts mathematical achievement in kindergarten and beyond as well as entry into the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields.


The results suggest an easy to implement, cost effective approach for promoting an important spatial skill in 4-year-old children: increase the amount and quality of spatial language input during brief play interactions. Promoting children's spatial thinking can occur over a few minutes of exposure to spatial language while having fun during play.

Marianella Casasola
Cornell University

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This page is a summary of: Children’s exposure to spatial language promotes their spatial thinking., Journal of Experimental Psychology General, June 2020, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/xge0000699.
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