Angles and Distances: Children's and Adults' Reconstruction and Scaling of Spatial Configurations

David H Uttal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Young children have performed poorly in spatial tasks that require the scaling and reconstruction of a configuration. The present research investigated whether or not children's reconstructions nevertheless preserved the relative positions of objects within the configuration. In Experiment 1, preschoolers (ages 4 and 5), young elementary school children (ages 6 and 7), and adults were asked to reconstruct symmetric configurations of six objects that were depicted on simple maps of an empty room. Most subjects preserved the overall configuration of objects, but preschoolers placed the objects far from the correct locations. Many of the preschoolers' reconstructions contained systematic transformations; many reconstructions were off-center and too small or too large. In Experiment 2, the configurations were asymmetric, and preschoolers performed substantially worse than in Experiment 1. Experiment 3 demonstrated that preschoolers could reconstruct the asymmetric configurations when scaling was not required. Taken together, the results reveal that even young children can represent and transform an entire configuration of objects. At the same time, the results reveal important developmental differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2763-2779
Number of pages17
JournalChild Development
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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