When seeing is knowing: The role of visual cues in the dissociation between children’s rule knowledge and rule use

Aaron T. Buss, John P. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS) task requires children to switch from sorting cards based on shape or color to sorting based on the other dimension. Typically, 3-year-olds perseverate, whereas 4-year-olds flexibly sort by different dimensions. Zelazo and colleagues (1996, Cognitive Development, 11, 37-63) asked children questions about the postswitch rules and found an apparent dissociation between rule knowledge and rule use, namely that 3-year-olds demonstrate accurate knowledge of the postswitch rules despite sorting cards incorrectly. Here, we show that children's success with these questions is grounded in their use of available visual cues; children who fail sorting use the target cards to correctly answer questions, and when the cards are unavailable they guess. This suggests that there might not be a dissociation between children's rule knowledge and rule use in the DCCS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-569
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


  • Executive function
  • Rule use
  • Dimensional Change Card Sort
  • Rule knowledge
  • Knowledge-Action

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