General Mechanisms Underlying Language and Spatial Cognitive Development


Previous research showed that children’s spatial language production predicts their spatial skills, but the mechanisms underlying this relation remain a source of debate. This study examined whether 4-year-olds’ spatial skills were predicted by their attention to task-relevant information—in tasks that emphasize either memory or language—above and beyond their spatial word production. Children completed three types of tasks: (1) a memory task assessing attention to task-relevant color, size, and location cues; (2) a production task assessing adaptive use of language to describe scenes, varying in color, size, and location; and (3) spatial tasks. After controlling for age, gender, and vocabulary, children’s spatial skills were significantly predicted by their memory for task-relevant cues, above and beyond their task-related language production and adaptive use of language. These findings suggest that attending to relevant information is a process supporting spatial skill acquisition and underlies the relation between language and spatial cognition.

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