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Emma Gregory, Michael McCloskey, Barbara Landau; The representation of the orientation of objects in children. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):420. doi: 10.1167/8.6.420.
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Representing the orientation of objects in the visual field is essential for interacting with the world. For example, representing orientation allows us to interpret visual scenes, comprehend symbols and pick up objects. The present study explores the representation of object orientation in young children. Many studies have investigated the ability of children to perceive and remember the orientations of lines and other simple stimuli. These studies have documented, for example, children's difficulty in distinguishing left-right mirror images, at least in tasks requiring memory for orientations. However, stimuli used in these studies are inadequate for identifying specific form(s) of error in representing orientation. In the present study we apply a theoretical framework proposed by McCloskey and colleagues. This framework conceives of orientation as a relationship among reference frames and assumes orientation representations have a compositional structure. The framework also defines possible forms of orientation error and relates these errors to failures in specific components of orientation representation. Finally, the framework specifies types of stimuli appropriate for probing orientation representations. In previous work we applied this framework to orientation representation in the adult visual system (Gregory & McCloskey, VSS, 2007). Here we use the framework to explore development of orientation representation. Pictures of objects were presented and children reported the orientation of the stimuli. The results indicate that the error pattern of young children has both similarities to and differences from the pattern exhibited by adults. As in the case of adults, children's errors support the assumption that orientation representations have a componential structure and argue for a key role of object-centered reference frames in orientation representations. Differences between children's and adults' error patterns suggest further that certain specific elements of orientation representations may develop later than others. Finally, the results contribute to our understanding of children's difficulties with mirror image orientations.
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