DOI: 10.3390/jintelligence11080168 ISSN:

A Novel Approach to Assessing Infant and Child Mental Rotation

Aaron G. Beckner, Mary Katz, David N. Tompkins, Annika T. Voss, Deaven Winebrake, Vanessa LoBue, Lisa M. Oakes, Marianella Casasola
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Education
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

Mental rotation is a critically important, early developing spatial skill that is related to other spatial cognitive abilities. Understanding the early development of this skill, however, requires a developmentally appropriate assessment that can be used with infants, toddlers, and young children. We present here a new eye-tracking task that uses a staircase procedure to assess mental rotation in 12-, 24-, and 36-month-old children (N = 41). To ensure that all children understood the task, the session began with training and practice, in which the children learned to fixate which of two houses a giraffe, facing either left or right, would approach. The adaptive two-up, one-down staircase procedure assessed the children’s ability to fixate the correct house when the giraffe was rotated in 30° (up) or 15° (down) increments. The procedure was successful, with most children showing evidence of mental rotation. In addition, the children were less likely to succeed as the angle of rotation increased, and the older children succeeded at higher angles of rotation than the younger children, replicating previous findings with other procedures. The present study contributes a new paradigm that can assess the development of mental rotation in young children and holds promise for yielding insights into individual differences in mental rotation.

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