Children's Spontaneous Use of Real-World Information in Problem-Solving

Document Type




Format of Original

9 p.

Publication Date



Taylor & Francis (Routledge)

Source Publication

The Journal of Genetic Psychology

Source ISSN



Seventy-one children (ages 3 through 7) were administered a modified concept learning task in which they had to learn that the relevant concept was always the larger of two real-world objects. Pictures of the objects varying in relative size were presented. The objects themselves were never presented. Interest was in the extent to which preschool children could spontaneously go beyond immediate perceptual information (picture size) and use prior knowledge (the object's actual relative size) in problem solving. Results indicated a marked increment in performance between the fifth and sixth years (p < .001). A second experiment indicated that the results were related to the children's failure to use real-world information and not to more general problems in the concept learning task. This shift to more effective performance was discussed in terms of the older child's representational system and ability to coordinate absent and present state information.


The Journal of Genetic Psychology, Vol. 144, No. 1 (March 1984): 89-97. DOI.