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Title: The development of children's theories : the case of horizontality
Author: Broadbent, Stefana
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1991
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The thesis sets out a domain-specific framework to deal with the problems of early competence and heterogeneity in conceptual development. According to this theoretical framework, cognitive development does not involve general change in the child's representational capacities, but change in local structures of knowledge, or theories. Within domains, knowledge acquisition proceeds in a stage-like fashion and can be characterised as the process of extending and restructuring theories. This process is described in terms of a logical model which represents stage-theories as propositional networks and the transition between stage-theories as the addition of new relevant propositions to the initial network. The theoretical framework is applied to the development of the concept of horizontality. Three empirical studies investigate children's ability to orient and to reproduce the horizontal orientation of different planes in equilibrium: a table-top, a cross-bar and the water-level. For each context, a de*calage between the correct orientation of the plane when it is perpendicular to its support and the correct orientation when it is at some angle, is observed. This finding is interpreted as evidence of the existence of two systems of spatial reference: object centered and framework centered. It is suggested that children's difficulty in reproducing the correct orientation of horizontal planes such as the water-level, arises from the conflict between the two systems of reference. The transformation of children's understanding of horizontality is thus explained, not as the acquisition of a new system of reference, but as the increasing ability to make the correct choice of reference axes and to resolve the conflict between the different axes assigned to the display. Knowledge of the dynamic and physical properties of objects is shown to play a major role in the development of this competence.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available