Examining Functional Spatial Perception in 10-Year-Olds and Adults

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This study examined a specific type of spatial perception, functional spatial perception, in 10-year-old children and adults. Functional spatial perception involves anticipating actions made with objects to fulfill a function, or, in this case, fitting objects through openings. We examined accuracy, sensitivity, and consistency in participants' abilities to adjust a window to the smallest opening through which a small wooden cube would fit. Success at this task requires accounting for the dimensions of both the object and the opening. In life circumstances, poor decisions at similar tasks may result in injury, frustration, or property damage. As much previous work in this area included very young children and adults, we sought to determine whether older children (10-year-olds) would show adult-like skills. Ten-year-old participants were as equally accurate and sensitive as adults, and both groups left a safety margin in performing this task; but we found that adults made more consistent judgments than 10-year-olds. There are developmental implications for these findings, given daily real-life needs to accurately gauge functional spatial relations and navigate objects in real life.

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