Here is what we’ve been up to!

Map Study

We wanted to learn about how children use different symbols on maps. We presented preschoolers with maps of model rooms and asked them to use the different symbols on the maps to find stickers hidden in the model room.

1) Sometimes the symbols MATCHED the stickersthe colour of the sticker (match version)

2) a different colour, altogether (arbitrary version)

3) the colour of the other sticker (conflict version)

We found that children were better at using matching and arbitrary symbols than they were at using ones in conflict. Interestingly, we found that different sets of skills were related to performance on each of the versions. For example, memory skills seem to be important for using arbitrary symbols. For the conflict symbols, we found that the task not only had memory demands but also required the children to overcome an instinctive response. Knowledge of what skills help children understand the symbols in maps can be used to help children understand symbols they encounter daily (numbers, written words, photographs, etc.)

Sorting Boats and Rabbits

The Dimensional Change Card Sort is a cognitive task often used with preschoolers. In the card sort, a blue rabbit and a red boat are affixed to the tops of two boxes and a series of mismatched boats and rabbits are sorted. In the colour game… in the shape game… Younger children have great difficulty playing the second game, no matter which game that is (colour or shape)

We found that if we told younger children what was on the card before showing it to them, they were much more likely to be successful in the second game (provided this was their first time playing the game). We were able to help younger kids overcome the distraction of the first game, and have shown that younger kids are better sorters than we thought!

Picture Patterns

Previous research has demonstrated that when preschool children are presented with a table of pictures in a particular pattern, they are unable to correctly fill in the blanks. The children tend to choose a picture that fits the pattern in one regard, but not all aspects, to fill in the missing spot. These results tend to be interpreted as evidence that children lack the ability to consider more than one dimension of the pictures. This research, however, has used complicated tables including several missing places and categories as a relevant component of the pattern. Therefore, we developed a basic task (as seen below) using only simple shapes and colours.

Our results indicated that children as young as four years of age are able to correctly choose the missing item from an array of possible options. Therefore, provided task demands are minimal, even young children can consider multiple aspects of a picture simultaneously.