Age-related changes in children's use of external representations.

P. D. Zelazo, J. A. Sommerville, S. Nichols

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48 Scopus citations


This study explored children's use of external representations. Experiment 1 focused on representations of self: Self-recognition was assessed by a mark test as a function of age (3 vs. 4 years), delay (5 s vs. 3 min), and media (photographs vs. drawings). Four-year-olds outperformed 3-year-olds; children performed better with photographs than drawings; and there was no effect of delay. In Experiment 2, 3- and 4-year-olds used a delayed video image to locate a sticker on themselves (self task) or a stuffed animal (other task). The 2 tasks were positively correlated with age and vocabulary partialed out. Experiment 3 used a search task to assess whether children have particular difficulty using external representations that conflict with their expectations: 3- and 4-year-olds were informed of an object's location verbally or through video: on half of the trials, this information conflicted with children's initial belief. Three-year-olds performed worse than 4-year-olds on conflict trials, indicating that assessments of self and other understanding may reflect children's ability to reason about conflicting external representations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1059-1071
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1999
Externally publishedYes


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