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Strategies for spatial organization in adults and children

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People have a tendency to organize space by extracting meaningful shapes from the configuration of elements. However, research on spatial correspondence in children suggests that when configural processing is difficult, individuation of elements may be critical. To begin to address the distinction between the use of configurations and individuation, and changes associated with age, we relied upon perceptual grouping and manipulated the colour of the displays—promoting either extraction of configural information (monochromatic) or individuation of elements (multicoloured). In a layout reproduction task (Experiments 1 and 2), children showed a robust advantage for multicoloured arrays, whereas adults showed an attenuated advantage for monochromatic displays. Visual discrimination in adults (Experiment 3) revealed that the influence of the display type occurs at the level of perception. Taken together, these results suggest that there are (at least) two routes to establishing spatial correspondence in arrays of elements, with differential dependence over development.
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Keywords: Configural processing; Development; Individuation; Layout reproduction; Spatial organization

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences,Johns Hopkins University, BaltimoreMD, USA 2: Department of Psychology,Howard University, BaltimoreMD, USA

Publication date: 2011-08-01

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