British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 2 Issue 2 (June 1984), Pages 95-190

Children's different use of alignment cues when encoding and when producing a match‐to‐target (pages 123-137)

Young children are frequently inaccurate in a simultaneous alignment task in which a square has to be laid down in alignment with a spatially discontiguous square, or a diamond with a diamond. The size of the inaccuracy can be manipulated by providing congruent or incongruent contextual cues. Three new results are reported here. First, accuracy at aligning the context itself seemed to obey grossly similar rules to those governing alignment to targets within the context. Secondly, the major determinant of contextual effects seemed to operate at the level of organizing the response rather than at encoding the display. Thirdly, whilst congruent cues on the response plane aided performance, they did not when they were located in the stimulus plane. Two suggestions are made to explain these effects. Firstly, children do not distribute their available orientation‐encoding resources economically when forming a mental representation of the stimulus; secondly, they attempt the simultaneous matching task by using a sequential strategy. The observed alignment error may be a product of their inefficient collation of evidence from the perceptual cues monitored during the two earlier stages of the sequential strategy.

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