ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2015, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (2): 234-242.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2015.00234

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The Development of Self-Position Representation and Self-Orientation Representation in Children’s Map Task

LU Jing; HU Qingfen   

  1. (Institute of Developmental Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China)
  • Received:2014-02-11 Published:2015-02-25 Online:2015-02-25
  • Contact: HU Qingfen,


Since the 1970 s, study from neurophysiology cognitive have found that animals’ position representation and direction representation in navigation tasks have different neural mechanisms. For example, place cells in hippocampus fire selectively in specific locations (O’Keefe & Dostrovsky, 1971), and head-direction cells in the postsubiculcum fire when the animal face specific orientations (Ranck, 1984). These studies have demonstrated the functional division of labor in animals’ cells responsive to different types of representations in space. However, no research has yet focused on the contrast between these two types of representations, and further the development trajectory of position and direction representations. In the present study, two map tasks were used to explore the developmental trajectory of position and direction representations in human children aged from 4 to 6. In each task, two map-to-space problems and two space-to-map problems were resolved by each child, which were conducted in a symmetrical-furnished square room. For the map-to-space problems of the location task, children were asked to indicate their own locations in the room by placing a cylinder object in the map, whereas for the space-to-map problems, they were given a map with a cylinder object in a specific position and asked to go to the corresponding location in the room. In the direction task, children were asked to indicate their orientations by placing a doll facing the corresponding direction in the map (space-to-map problems), or facing the corresponding direction in the room as the doll indicated in the map (map-to-space problems). We found that 4-year-old children began to perform better than chance in the location task. However, children did not show the ability to solve the direction problems until 5 years old. Besides, the 4-year-olds performed better in the pattern of map-to-place in the location task. These results demonstrated that the ability of using map to represent position and that to represent direction were dissociable in the development. Specifically, the ability of representing one’s own location in a map developed earlier than that of representing one’s own direction. Our study provides novel evidence on the dissociation of position representation and direction representation, extending previous neurophysiological studies. Additionally, the benefit of map-to-space pattern suggested that this pattern might provide a better global understanding of spatial relations in map task and favor young children’s location representation when they start to understand map.

Key words: children, self-position representation, self-orientation representation, map