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Child Development Research
Volume 2015, Article ID 902584, 10 pages
Research Article

Microdevelopment of Complex Featural and Spatial Integration with Contextual Support

1Department of Psychology, Salem State University, 325 Lafayette Street, Salem, MA 01970, USA
2Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, 528 Wilson Hall, Nashville, TN 37235, USA

Received 31 July 2015; Revised 17 September 2015; Accepted 21 September 2015

Academic Editor: Olga Capirci

Copyright © 2015 Pamela L. Hirsch and Elisabeth Hollister Sandberg. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Complex spatial decisions involve the ability to combine featural and spatial information in a scene. In the present work, 4- through 9-year-old children completed a complex map-scene correspondence task under baseline and supported conditions. Children compared a photographed scene with a correct map and with map-foils that made salient an object feature or spatial property. Map-scene matches were analyzed for the effects of age and featural-spatial information on children’s selections. In both conditions children significantly favored maps that highlighted object detail and object perspective rather than color, landmark, and metric elements. Children’s correct performance did not differ by age and was suboptimal, but their ability to choose correct maps improved significantly when contextual support was provided. Strategy variability was prominent for all age groups, but at age 9 with support children were more likely to give up their focus on features and transition to the use of spatial strategies. These findings suggest the possibility of a U-shaped curve for children’s development of geometric knowledge: geometric coding is predominant early on, diminishes for a time in middle childhood in favor of a preference for features, and then reemerges along with the more advanced abilities to combine featural and spatial information.