Finding the middle: Spatial language and spatial reasoning

Nina K. Simms*, Dedre Gentner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Learning relational language has been implicated in the development of spatial relational reasoning. We hypothesized that children's encoding of the midpoint, a complex spatial relation, would be predicted by their knowledge of the relevant spatial terms, middle and between. Children aged 2½ to 5½ were asked to find an object hidden at the midpoint between two landmarks, which varied in their location and distance. Children improved with age on the search task; further, children's performance after feedback suggested that encoding the midpoint relation poses a genuine challenge for young children. Children's knowledge of the words middle and between, assessed in a separate task, predicted their search success beyond what was predicted by age or knowledge of other spatial terms. These findings are consistent with the view that relevant spatial word knowledge supports the representation and use of this complex spatial concept, a proposal that future work will seek to address.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-194
Number of pages18
JournalCognitive Development
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019


  • Language and thought
  • Midpoint
  • Spatial cognition
  • Spatial reasoning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Finding the middle: Spatial language and spatial reasoning'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this