Spatial Alignment Facilitates Visual Comparison in Children

AbstractVisual comparison is a key process in everyday learning. Matlen et al. (2020) recently proposed the Spatial Alignment Principle, based on the broader work of structure-mapping theory in comparison. According to the principle, visual comparison is more efficient when pairs are arranged in direct placement: i.e., so that the visuals are juxtaposed orthogonally to their structural axes. In this placement (a) the intended relational correspondences are readily apparent, and (b) the influence of potential competing correspondences is minimized. Thus, this placement should make the relational alignment maximally easy to notice. The results of a same-different task in adults supported this claim. The current study asks whether the Spatial Alignment Principle applies in children’s visual comparison. 6-year-old children performed a same-different task for visual relational patterns. The results indicated that direct placement led to faster and more accurate comparison, both for concrete same-different matches (matches of both objects and relations) and for purely relational matches.

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