The Development of Three Spatial Concepts: In, on, under

Roberta Corrigan, Esther Halpern, Ora Aviezer, Allan Goldblatt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two cognitive tasks were developed in order to test the emergence of three spatial concepts, “in”, “on”, and “under”. Previous researchers had inferred the prior development of the cognitive concepts from work on language comprehension, but had never directly tested the sequence without using the language terms in their instructions to the children. The present research provides cognitive tasks that traced the development of the three types of space with use of instructions that did not make direct verbal reference to the spatial locative terms. Subjects were 60 Israeli children between 18 and 30 months of age. In “construction of space” tasks, children actively manipulated blocks in three different procedures: (1) in free play, (2) with blocks presented in a fixed order that was designed to elicit one of the three types of space, and (3) through imitation of a model construction. In “recognition of space” tasks, children chose a picture depicting one of the spatial concepts. For both construction and recognition tasks, scalogram analyses and an analysis of variance confirmed that “in” concepts developed earlier than “on” concepts, which developed before “under” concepts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-419
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1981
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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