The development of early symbolization: Educational implications

Judy S. Deloache*, David H. Uttal, Sophia L. Pierroutsakos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Research on the symbolic functioning of very young children has important implications for educational materials. We argue that there are no transparent symbols; one can never assume that what seems to be an obvious symbolic relation is obvious to young children. We have discovered that young children have particular difficulty understanding and using symbols that are themselves interesting objects. A symbol, such as a scale model of a room, that is salient and appealing as an object, requires a dual representation: To use a model, one must simultaneously represent both the model itself and its referent. Research on young children's understanding and use of models indicates that they have particular difficulty achieving dual representation. This work has clear implications for the use of symbolic objects for educational purposes. We discuss several examples of commonly used symbolic objects, suggesting that they may be less helpful to young learners than is generally assumed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-339
Number of pages15
JournalLearning and Instruction
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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