Early map use as an unlearned ability

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76 Scopus citations


Four experiments demonstrated that certain fundamental principles of map use can be accessed without any specific training. Results showed that a 4-year-old congenitally blind child with no previous map-use experience could use a 2-symbol map to directionally guide her locomotion in space, with successful location of objects in front of her, behind her, to her left, or to her right. She could do so under conditions where the map and space were aligned in front of her (canonical condition), and under various transformation conditions: sideways translation, front-behind translation, and vertical rotation. In these conditions, there was no straightforward spatial relationship between her position in space, and her represented position on the map; therefore, mental alignments of the map with external space were necessary. Control data from sighted children showed that, by 4 years, they too could interpret and use these maps. Analysis of the requirements of this simple map task suggests that a core of the knowledge required to use maps is a readily accessible product of a spatial knowledge system common to both the blind and sighted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-223
Number of pages23
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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