Adults' Performance on Horizontality Tasks: Conflicting Frames of Reference

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Abstract

Many adults fail the Piagetian water-level task designed to assess children's abilities to use coordinate axes for representing physical phenomena. Although McGillicuddy-De Lisi, De Lisi, and Youniss (1978) reported that adults' difficulties virtually disappear with a "crossbar" horizontality task, this advantage might reflect the absence of an embedding nonoblique context. Consistent with this hypothesis, college students in Study 1 performed no better on an embedded crossbar task than on the water-level task. Performance was significantly better on a disembedded crossbar task. The predicted superiority of field independence was not found. In Study 2, college students' performance on the embedded crossbar and water-level tasks again did not differ significantly. Performance on disembedded crossbar tasks was better than on the water-level task, regardless of whether or not the symmetrical, pivoted nature of the crossbar was emphasized. In both studies, men performed better than women. Data underscore the need to consider subjects' appreciation of both physical principles and spatial concepts when designing tasks to investigate either domain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-294
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Volume27
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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

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