Spatial Language and Landmark Use: Can 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds find the Middle?

Nina Simms, Dedre Gentner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Evidence suggests that (a) young children have difficulty reasoning about spatial relations, and that (b) spatial language can facilitate their performance (Loewenstein & Gentner, 2005). This study investigates children’s ability to reason about a particular spatial relation, middle, which we hypothesize may be particularly challenging. We ask when children become able to encode the middle and whether this ability is related to acquisition of the words “middle” and “between.” Finally, we explored the errors children make when reasoning about middle. We gave 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children a search task in which the hidden object was always in the middle of two landmarks (Midpoint Task), followed by a language task assessing their understanding of the spatial relational terms “middle” and “between.” Children’s accuracy on the Midpoint search task increased with age; and, more interestingly, increased with knowledge of the relevant words.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
EditorsVladimir Sloutsky, Brad Love, Ken McRae
PublisherCognitive Science Society
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)978-0-9768318-4-6
StatePublished - 2008


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