Ordinality and Verbal Framing Influence Preschoolers’ Memory for Spatial Structure

Helen Branyan, Elisheva Cooper, Samuel Shaki, Koleen McCrink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During the preschool years, children are simultaneously undergoing a reshaping of their mental number line and becoming increasingly sensitive to the social norms expressed by those around them. In the current study, 4- and 5-year-old American and Israeli children were given a task in which an experimenter laid out chips with numbers (1–5), letters (A-E), or colors (Red-Blue, the first colors of the rainbow), and presented them with a specific order (initial through final) and direction (Left-to-right or Right-to-left). The experimenter either did not demonstrate the laying out of the chips (Control), emphasized the process of the left-to-right or right-to-left spatial layout (Process), or used general goal language (Generic). Children were then asked to recreate each sequence after a short delay. Children also completed a short numeracy task. The results indicate that attention to the spatial structuring of the environment was influenced by conventional framing; children exhibited better recall when the manner of layout was emphasized than when it was not. Both American and Israeli children were better able to recall numerical information relative to non-numerical information. Although children did not show an overall benefit for better recall of information related to the culture’s dominant spatial direction, American children’s tendency to recall numerical direction information predicted their early numeracy ability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-159
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Cognition and Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023


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