Piecing together the puzzle of pictorial representation: How jigsaw puzzles index metacognitive development

Martin J. Doherty, Marina C. Wimmer, Cornelia Gollek, Charlotte Stone, Elizabeth J. Robinson

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Jigsaw puzzles are ubiquitous developmental toys in Western societies, used here to examine the development of metarepresentation. For jigsaw puzzles this entails understanding that individual pieces, when assembled, produce a picture. In Experiment 1, 3- to 5-year-olds (N=117) completed jigsaw puzzles that were normal, had no picture, or comprised non-interlocking rectangular pieces. Pictorial puzzle completion was associated with mental and graphical metarepresentational task performance. Guide pictures of completed pictorial puzzles were not useful. In Experiment 2, 3- to 4-year-olds (N=52) completed a simplified task, to choose the correct final piece. Guide-use associated with age and specifically graphical metarepresentation performance. We conclude that the pragmatically natural measure of jigsaw puzzle completion ability demonstrates general and pictorial metarepresentational development at 4 years. 
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-221
Number of pages17
JournalChild Development
Issue number1
Early online date29 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

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