Length and Distance: Do Preschoolers Think That Occlusion Brings Things Together?

Kevin F. Miller, Renee L Baillargeon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Preschoolers often assert that objects become closer together when part of the distance between them is occluded (occlusion = nearer). Piaget argued that this is due to young children's use of a topological spatial representation. Three studies explored the occlusion = nearer phenomenon. In Study 1, children who asserted that occlusion = nearer nonetheless picked the same stick before and after occlusion as just fitting between 2 points. Study 2 showed that occlusion = nearer is due neither to a belief that all movement alters distance nor to a general misunderstanding about the terms near and far. In Study 3, children shown separate occluded and unoccluded gaps picked shorter sticks to span occluded gaps, indicating a perceptual basis for the occlusion = nearer phenomenon. Preschool children do not appear to change the geometries they use to represent space, but do show increases in the generality and explicitness with which they map early spatial knowledge onto spatial language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-114
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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