Date of Award

Spring 4-22-2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

MS Experimental Psychology

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Amy S. Joh, PhD

Committee Member

Marianne Lloyd, PhD

Committee Member

Paige Fisher, PhD

Keywords

early childhood, development, spatial reasoning, verbal skills, music

Abstract

Spatial reasoning is the ability to visualize and interact with one’s three-dimensional environment. A spatial problem that is particularly challenging for young children is the tube task, developed by Hood in 1995. Children are presented with an apparatus that consists of a large frame with three intertwining tubes attached to the top and bottom. Children are asked to predict where a ball will emerge when it is dropped down one of the tubes. Young children typically make what is known as the gravity bias error, in which they believe a ball will drop straight down even though its path is obstructed by a curved tube. The current research consists of two studies with participants between 3 and 3.5 years of age. In both studies, the goal was to provide children with a strategy to help them overcome the gravity bias error. In Study 1, participants were asked to explain their predictions about the location of the ball at the start of each test trial. Children’s responses in Study 1 were used to create the lyrics for the song in Study 2 in which participants were asked to sing a short song designed to facilitate reasoning about their predictions. Study 1 showed a pattern similar to previous research, with boys outperforming girls. It did not appear that the manipulation used in Study 1 resulted in improved performance. In contrast, Study 2 indicated that with this type of musical training, girls make the same number of correct predictions as boys, suggesting that this manipulation may be of use—albeit limited in scope—for girls. Together, the findings from the two studies provided further insight into how children reason about spatial problems and the types of external cues may help them solve these important problems.

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