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How children learn to deal with space: developmental studies on spatial memory

By J. Bullens


Spatial cognition is an important building block of general cognition and arguably could have been essential for how we evolved into the human beings we are today. Knowledge of how this fundamental skill develops during childhood is therefore central to our theoretical understanding of cognition in general. In this thesis, we studied the development of an important aspect of spatial cognition, i.e. spatial memory. We investigated children’s ability to learn and remember what objects look like (recognition memory) as well as their ability to remember where objects are located in the environment (object location memory). Since we already know that some major changes in spatial memory occur in the first years of life, we were specifically interested in the more subtle developmental changes during primary school age leading towards adulthood. The results of our experimental studies are in line with the adaptive combination model proposed by Newcombe and Huttenlocher (2006). This model suggests that the weighting of different spatial information sources changes with age. The weights will depend on the certainty with which spatial information is encoded, the salience of the information, and children’s learning history. In line with the adaptive combination model we observed that the weighting of spatial information changes over childhood. We found that 1) children younger than 10 years weight categorical (abstract) and coordinate (metric) spatial information differently than adults 2) egocentric and allocentric navigation strategies are applied in parallel already early in life, but older children prefer the use of allocentric information sources (distal landmarks and/or the geometry of the environment), whereas younger children prefer the use of egocentric (body-related) information and 3) (distal) landmark and boundary information are weighted differently in different age groups. Apparently, nature has equipped us with multiple ways to remember space, and this already early in life. However, the fluency and efficiency with which we can use these various learning and memory processes matures over time

Topics: Psychologie (PSYC)
Publisher: Utrecht University
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:dspace.library.uu.nl:1874/32080
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