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The role of spatial and spatial-temporal analysis in children's causal cognition of continuous processes

Dündar-Coecke, S; Tolmie, A; Schlottmann, A; (2020) The role of spatial and spatial-temporal analysis in children's causal cognition of continuous processes. PLoS One , 15 (7) , Article e0235884. 10.1371/journal.pone.0235884. Green open access

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Abstract

Past research has largely ignored children's ability to conjointly manipulate spatial and temporal information, but there are indications that the capacity to do so may provide important support for reasoning about causal processes. We hypothesised that spatial-temporal thinking is central to children's ability to identify the invisible mechanisms that tie cause and effect together in continuous casual processes, which are focal in primary school science and crucial to understanding of the natural world. We investigated this in two studies (N = 107, N = 124), employing two methodologies, one shorter, the other more in depth. Further tasks assessed spatial-temporal (flow of liquid, extrapolation of relative speed, distance-time-velocity), spatial (two mental rotation, paper folding), verbal (expressive vocabulary), and nonverbal (block design) ability. Age dependent patterns were detected for both causal and predictor tasks. Two spatial-temporal tasks were unique and central predictors of children's causal reasoning, especially inference of mechanism. Nonverbal ability predicted the simpler components of causal reasoning. One mental rotation task predicted only young children's causal thinking. Verbal ability became significant when the sample included children from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds. Causal reasoning about continuous processes, including inferences of causal mechanism, appears to be within the reach of children from school entry age, but mechanism inference is uncommon. Analytic forms of spatial-temporal capacity seem to be important requirements for children to progress to this rather than merely perceptual forms.

Type: Article
Title: The role of spatial and spatial-temporal analysis in children's causal cognition of continuous processes
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0235884
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0235884
Language: English
Additional information: © 2020 Dündar-Coecke et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: Fluid flow, Liquids, Age groups, Cognition, Schools, Human performance, Reasoning, Children
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Psychology and Human Development
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10108032
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