More precisely defining and measuring the order-irrelevance principle

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R. Gelman and C. Gallistel (1978, Young Children's Understanding of Number, Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press) use two definitions of the order-irrelevance principle interchangeably: (1) count tags do not have to be assigned in a fixed order and (2) the order in which elements of a set are enumerated does not affect the cardinal designation of the set. A study involving 107 kindergarten and first grade children indicates that the two are actually distinct concepts. Apparently, a willingness to arbitrarily assign tags is a developmentally less sophisticated ability than-and hence does not necessarily imply-an ability to predict that differently ordered counts produce the same cardinal designation. Thus it appears that evidence of the second ability is necessary to infer a full understanding of the order-irrelevance principle. The first ability alone implies what might better be termed an "order-indifferent tagging scheme". Suggestions for measuring and further researching the order-irrelevance principle are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-41
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 1984
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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