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PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, PSYCHOLOGY (oxfordre.com/psychology). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited. Please see applicable Privacy Policy and Legal Notice (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 10 December 2018

Summary and Keywords

Spatial ability is manifest across different psychological domains, including perception, action, and cognition. The development of spatial understanding originates in the perception-action skills of infants. When infants act on the world, either during object manipulation or locomotion, one may begin to glean the foundations of older children’s and adults’ efforts to think, reason, and solve problems more symbolically and abstractly. Even during infancy, different actions, such as reaching and locomotion, may incur different spatial demands, requiring infants to use spatial information flexibly. In the preschool years and beyond, as symbolic skills become more developed, children’s spatial abilities become more abstract, which are reflected in their abilities to think about the layout of environments and to use maps to learn about environments. Besides differences in spatial ability as a function of developmental level, individual differences in spatial ability have also been documented as a function of gender, daily experience, and blindness. Collectively, research on individual differences in spatial development suggests that training procedures can reduce differences in spatial skill that may arise in different individuals. Finally, to understand spatial development more fully, research is needed on the neural bases of spatial development, cross-cultural differences in spatial development, and the impact of technology on spatial behavior.

Keywords: spatial development, spatial orientation, space perception, cognitive maps, sex differences, spatial training, reaching, navigation, maps

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