Using the axis of elongation to align shapes: Developmental changes between 18 and 24 months of age

Linda B. Smith, Sandra Street, Susan S. Jones, Karin H. James

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10 Citations (Scopus)


An object’s axis of elongation serves as an important frame of reference for forming three-dimensional representations of object shape. By several recent accounts, the formation of these representations is also related to experiences of acting on objects. Four experiments examined 18- to 24-month-olds’ (N = 103) sensitivity to the elongated axis in action tasks that required extracting, comparing, and physically rotating an object so that its major axis was aligned with that of a visual standard. In Experiments 1 and 2, the older toddlers precisely rotated both simple and complexly shaped three-dimensional objects in insertion tasks where the visual standard was the rectangular contour defining the opening in a box. The younger toddlers performed poorly. Experiments 3 and 4 provide evidence on emerging abilities in extracting and using the most extended axis as a frame of reference for shape comparison. Experiment 3 showed that 18-month-olds could rotate an object to align its major axis with the direction of their own hand motion, and Experiment 4 showed that they could align the major axis of one object with that of another object of the exact same three-dimensional shape. The results are discussed in terms of theories of the development of three-dimensional shape representations, visual object recognition, and the role of action in these developments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-35
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes

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