In, on, and under: Examining the Relationship between Cognitive and Language Skills

Esther Halpern, Roberta Corrigan, Ora Aviezer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Based on language comprehension data, previous literature had suggested that cognitive rules determined the order of acquisition of the spatial concepts ’in’, ’on’, and ’under’. However, this research had not independently assessed language and cognitive sequences in the same children. The present research examined the order of emergence of these concepts using both a non-verbal cognitive task and linguistic comprehension and production tasks. Subjects were 75 Israeli children between 14 and 30 months of age. In the cognitive tasks, children actively manipulated blocks in procedures designed to elicit the three types of space. In the language tasks, children were either asked to follow verbal instructions of the form “put X (in, on or under) the Y”, or to use the respective locatives in their language. Scalogram analyses of the construction, comprehension, and production tasks indicated that ’in’ space developed earlier than ’on’ space, which developed before ’under’ space. In general, cognitive tasks were solved prior to language comprehension tasks, which occurred prior to language production tasks. The discussion concludes that the same underlying skills are necessary for the solution of both the cognitive and language tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-166
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1983
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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