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The Effects of Training on Visual-spatial Disembedding Skills in Early Childhood


The overall goal of the present study was to develop, implement, and test the effectiveness of a curriculum designed to improve spatial thinking amongst preschool children. Specifically, the study explored the effects of shape-based training on 4-year-old children’s ability to disembed and whether the training transferred to improvement in mental rotation skills.

Participants were recruited from preschools in the Central California Coast region. The treatment group included 20 children, 9 boys and 11 girls (M= 4.48, SD= .27) and the control group included 20 children as well, 10 boys and 10 girls (M= 4.50, SD= .27). Children in the control condition received a basic shape curriculum that focused on teaching children about shape attributes. Children in the treatment condition received the basic shape curriculum as well but also participated in activities that encouraged the development of disembedding skills.

Findings from this study suggest that minimal training can improve preschool children’s spatial abilities. Children in both conditions showed improvement on an embedded figures test and two newly developed spatial measures but there were no intervention group effects. That is, both the intervention and control group children improved in their ability to recognize shapes and disembed shapes. However, the improvements did not transfer to a mental rotation task. Correlations provide evidence to support the newly created measures as methods of assessing preschool children’s ability to disembed hidden figures and mentally rotate objects. The significance of the findings as well as implications for future research are discussed.

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