What is it about?

The shape of a room or a building can provide useful information about where things are located within it. In this paper we wanted to know how children find a hidden object, when they only have the shape of the room to guide them. Would children use a first-person view of parts of their environment to find the hidden object, or would they form a cognitive map of its overall geometry? The answer was...both; and most interestingly, these two different strategies developed in children at the same time.

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Why is it important?

The study of navigation has been a melting pot for research across many fields in psychology, with theories coming from cognitive, comparative, neuroscientific, and developmental domains. A particularly wide-ranging debate is how environmental shape controls reorientation behavior. Here, data from developmental psychology have been a particularly important driver of new theories. However, the methods used in developmental assessments of children’s behavior have often confounded the influence of different strategies. This team developed methods that were suitable for revealing the contributions of different types of shape representations in guiding reorientation behaviour in adults, and here they applied them to understand the development of spatial cognition in children.


The studies within this paper were conducted at Summer Scientist Week, an annual science outreach event organised by the University of Nottingham, School of Psychology. Children and their families are invited to take part in research studies and fun activities to advance our knowledge of development, and improve the public understanding of psychology.

Dr Mark Haselgrove
University of Nottingham

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The developmental trajectories of children’s reorientation to global and local properties of environmental geometry., Journal of Experimental Psychology General, August 2022, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/xge0001265.
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