From map reading to geometric intuitions

Moira R. Dillon, Elizabeth S. Spelke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The origins and development of our geometric intuitions have been debated for millennia. The present study links children's developing intuitions about the properties of planar triangles to their developing abilities to read purely geometric maps. Six-year-old children are limited when navigating by maps that depict only the sides of a triangle in an environment composed of only the triangle's corners and vice versa. Six-year-old children also incorrectly judge how the angle size of the third corner of a triangle varies with changes to the other two corners. These limitations in map reading and in judgments about triangles are attenuated, respectively, by 10 and 12 years of age. Moreover, as children get older, their map reading predicts their geometric judgments on the triangle task. Map reading thus undergoes developmental changes that parallel an emerging capacity to reason explicitly about the distance and angle relations essential to euclidean geometry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1304-1316
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2018


  • Euclidean geometry
  • Mathematical cognition
  • Spatial cognition
  • Spatial symbols

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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