Developmental changes in the use of absolute and relative information: The case of spatial extent

Marina Vasilyeva, Sean Duffy, Janellen Huttenlocher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


In the present paper we investigated the development of the ability to reproduce extent in elementary school students. Children were shown a target line in a frame and were asked to reconstruct the line in a flame of a different size. One experimental condition involved reproducing absolute extent, i.e., drawing a line that would be equal in length to the target line. The other condition involved reproducing relative extent; drawing a line that would preserve the relation between the target line and the frame. We found that in both conditions the length of the target and its relation to the frame affected children's responses. Yet, older children (7-9-year-olds) showed distinctive response patterns in the two conditions, indicating differentiation between absolute and relative extent. Whereas the performance of 5-year-olds in reproducing relative extent was similar to that of older children, their reproduction of absolute extent reflected a compromise between the use of absolute and relative cues. These findings extend the results of prior work suggesting an early advantage in the ability to use relative rather than absolute extent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-471
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Cognition and Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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