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Volume 13 Issue 2 (March 2010), Pages 265-406

The emergence of a novel representation from action: evidence from preschoolers (pages 370-377)


Recent work in embodied cognition has proposed that representations and actions are inextricably linked. The current study examines a developmental account of this relationship. Specifically, we propose that children’s actions are foundational for novel representations. Thirty‐two preschoolers, aged 3.4 to 5.7 years, were asked to solve a set of simple gear‐system problems. Participants’ motions and verbalizations were coded to establish the strategies they used. The preschoolers initially solved the problems by simulating the turning and pushing of the gears. Subsequently, most participants discovered a new representation of the problems: the turning direction of the gears alternates. Results show that the number of actions that embodied alternation information, during their simulation of the system, predicted the later emergence of the higher‐order representation (i.e. that the gears alternate turning direction). Thus, it appears that the preschoolers discovered a new representation based on their own actions. These results are consistent with the developmental embodiment hypothesis: actions are central to the emergence of new representations.

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