Spatial Mapping in Preschoolers: Close Comparisons Facilitate Far Mappings

Jeffrey Loewenstein, Dedre Gentner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To test the hypothesis that comparison processes facilitate schema extraction, we studied the effect of making comparisons on 3-year-olds' ability to perform mapping tasks. In 3 studies, children were tested on their ability to find ahidden toy in a model room after being shown its location in a perceptually different room. In Experiment 1 we found that seeing 2 similar hiding events - permitting a sequential comparison - improved 3-year-olds' performance on the mapping task. Experiment 2 showed a more striking effect: Simply comparing the initial hiding model with another nearly identical model helped children to succeed on the subsequent mapping task. Experiment 3 showed that the comparison effect was not simply due to an opportunity to interact with 2 examples, but was specific to comparing them. We conclude that comparing examples can facilitate children's noticing common relational schemas - in this case, a spatial relational schema - and their ability to use this system of relations in subsequent tasks. Our central hypothesis is that the process of comparison is a major force in children's learning and development. In this work, we test the specific claim that drawing comparisons among similar spatial arrays fosters insight into the common spatial relations, as assessed in a subsequent spatial mapping task.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-219
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Cognition and Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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