Analogical Processes in Children’s Understanding of Spatial Representations
We propose that map reading can be construed as a form of analogical mapping. We tested 2 predictions that follow from this claim: First, young children’s patterns of performance in map reading tasks should parallel those found in analogical mapping tasks; and, second, children will benefit from guided alignment instructions that help them see the relational correspondences between the map and the space. In 4 experiments, 3-year-olds completed a map reading task in which they were asked to find hidden objects in a miniature room, using a corresponding map. We manipulated the availability of guided alignment (showing children the analogical mapping between maps and spaces; Experiments 1, 2, and 3a), the format of guided alignment (gesture or relational language; Experiment 2), and the iconicity of maps (Experiments 3a and 3b). We found that (a) young children’s difficulties in map reading follow from known patterns of analogical development—for example, focusing on object similarity over relational similarity; and (b) guided alignment based on analogical reasoning led to substantially better performance. Results also indicated that children’s map reading performance was affected by the format of guided alignment, the iconicity of the maps, and the order of tasks. The results bear on the developmental mechanisms underlying young children’s learning of spatial representations and also suggest ways to support this learning.