Effects of route traveled on the distance estimates of children and adults


Second graders, sixth graders, and adults walked about an experimental environment containing seven stimulus locations and three large barriers. Each individual learned the environment while traveling along a prescribed route. The environment was constructed such that 12 of the interlocation distances represented the factorial combination of route (traveled vs not traveled), barrier (absent vs present), and distance (4-, 6-, and 8-ft). After criterial performance in learning the environment, each person gave distance estimates of the 12 critical distances. In general, the estimates of the length of routes that were traveled, were long and had no intervening barrier were more accurate than the estimates of the length of routes which were not traveled, were short, and had intervening barriers to prevent direct travel. In addition, for 4- and 6-ft distances, subjects overestimated barrier present paths which were not traveled relative to the other three estimates for each distance (barrier present traveled, barrier absent traveled, barrier absent not traveled). These findings emphasize the generative nature of the construction of spatial representations and suggest that functional distance, or ease of travel, does not influence this construction in a simple manner. Results are discussed in terms of the ability to coordinate spatial information with general knowledge of spatial relationships. © 1980.

Publication Title

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology