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PLoS One. 2017 Feb 16;12(2):e0171762. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0171762. eCollection 2017.

Are developments in mental scanning and mental rotation related?

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University of Plymouth, School of Psychology, Cognition Centre, Plymouth, United Kingdom.
University of Warwick, Department of Psychology, Coventry, United Kingdom.
University of East Anglia, School of Psychology, Norwich, United Kingdom.


The development and relation of mental scanning and mental rotation were examined in 4-, 6-, 8-, 10-year old children and adults (N = 102). Based on previous findings from adults and ageing populations, the key question was whether they develop as a set of related abilities and become increasingly differentiated or are unrelated abilities per se. Findings revealed that both mental scanning and rotation abilities develop between 4- and 6 years of age. Specifically, 4-year-olds showed no difference in accuracy of mental scanning and no scanning trials whereas all older children and adults made more errors in scanning trials. Additionally, the minority of 4-year-olds showed a linear increase in response time with increasing rotation angle difference of two stimuli in contrast to all older participants. Despite similar developmental trajectories, mental scanning and rotation performances were unrelated. Thus, adding to research findings from adults, mental scanning and rotation appear to develop as a set of unrelated abilities from the outset. Different underlying abilities such as visual working memory and spatial coding versus representing past and future events are discussed.

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