Developing symbolic capacity one step at a time

Janellen Huttenlocher, Marina Vasilyeva, Nora Newcombe, Sean Duffy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The present research examines the ability of children as young as 4 years to use models in tasks that require scaling of distance along a single dimension. In Experiment 1, we found that tasks involving models are similar in difficulty to those involving maps that we studied earlier (Huttenlocher, J., Newcombe, N., & Vasilyeva, M. (1999). Spatial scaling in young children. Psychological Science, 10, 393-398). In Experiment 2, we found that retrieval tasks, where children indicate the location of a hidden object in an actual space are substantially more difficult than placement tasks, where children put a visible object in a particular location in an actual space. We discuss possible implications of the differential difficulty of retrieval and placement tasks for the understanding of symbolic development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • Spatial models
  • Symbolic development


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