Here are some brief descriptions of our studies, results and some of their implications.
In one series of studies, we looked at children's perception of similarities in simple spatial patterns. Children were presented with pictures of simple objects, varying in shape and spatial arrangement, and asked for their judgment of similarities.
So far, our results suggest that young children judge similarity mostly by common objects (such as a cat in both figures). Older children are more likely to use common spatial relations (such as whether the relation of small-big-small is preserved in both pictures).
In another study, we investigated children's use of English spatial prepositions. Children were shown simple scenes and asked how they would describe them. We found that, unlike adults' descriptions, children's descriptions were influenced by what objects are in the scene, but not by the shape of the reference object.
We also continued our investigation of children's understanding of spatial similarity using hiding and finding games. We are studying whether hearing language for relationships can help children understand abstract similarities at a younger age.
In another study, we looked at how 3-year old children abstract relations between objects with the help of words. We showed children pairs of pictures, and for half the children we labeled the relations between these pairs. Children who heard these relational labels were better able to apply the same relation to other pairs.