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Experimental Child Psychology


In two experiments, we investigated 3- to 5-year-old children's ability to use dolls and human figure drawings as symbols to map body touches. In Experiment 1, stickers were placed on different locations of children's bodies, and the children were asked to indicate the locations of the stickers using three different symbols: a doll, a human figure drawing, and the adult researcher. Performance on the tasks increased with age, but many 5-year-olds did not attain perfect performance. Surprisingly, younger children made more errors on the two-dimensional (2D) human figure drawing task compared with the three-dimensional (3D) doll and adult tasks. In Experiment 2, we compared children's ability to use 3D and 2D symbols to indicate body touch as well as to guide their search for a hidden object. We replicated the findings of Experiment 1 for the body touch task; for younger children, 3D symbols were easier to use than 2D symbols. However, the reverse pattern was found for the object locations task, with children showing superior performance using 2D drawings over 3D models. Although children showed developmental improvements in using dolls and drawings to show where they were touched, less than two thirds of the 5-year-olds performed perfectly on the touch tasks. Both developmental and forensic implications of these results are discussed.



Published Citation

Lytle, N., London, K., & Bruck, M. (2015). Young children’s ability to use two-dimensional and three-dimensional symbols to show placements of body touches and hidden objects. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 134, 30-42.

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