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Parental construction of spatial associations: Origins of culturally-mediated left-to-right spatial associations in toddlers

Caldera, Christina J.; McCrink, Koleen Cathryn

The mapping of numbers in space to form a "mental number line" has been consistently found in adults in many different number situations. Typically, this mapping goes in a culturally-consistent direction mediated by the direction of writing, and has also been found to generalize to other non-numerical, ordinal stimuli such as the alphabet. The primary theory regarding the origins of this spatial-mapping is a causal role of the visuo-motor process of automatically scanning and reading language. Yet, more recent findings demonstrate that this directional orientation begins to develop prior to formal reading, suggesting that other earlier experiences might also be responsible for the structuring of this attentional bias. The current study investigates if and how caregivers structure the environment for their child in a culturally-congruent direction prior to any formal reading instruction. The structure of pointing behavior was observed and scored as caregivers to one- and two-year-olds described images in a slideshow task, told stories via placement of tiles with objects on them, and created scenes for their child using magnets. These children had not yet entered preschool, but were old enough for caregivers to have begun to extensively describe the environment to them. Caregivers showed a left-to-right directional preference when leading their child's attention in the slideshow task. Caregivers displayed a trend of left-to-right tile structuring during the tile placement task, and showed no preferred structuring in the magnet scene-construction task.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Psychology (Barnard College)
Thesis Advisors
Heuer, Larry P.
Degree
B.A., Barnard College
Published Here
May 23, 2012
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