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Title: Children's perception and understanding of ambiguous figures
Author: Wimmer, Marina Christine
ISNI:       0000 0004 2682 7356
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2007
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Background Research has shown that people need to be pre-informed about the ambiguity in order to perceive both interpretations (reverse) of an ambiguous figure. Children younger than 4 years mostly do not experience reversal even when informed. This suggests that the processes involved in reversal develop at this age. Aim The aim of the studies reported here was to disentangle the cognitive processes (metarepresentation, executive function, mental imagery) and the role of eye-movements involved in reversal. Method Four studies (7 experiments), each involving around sixty 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children, using multiple tasks, were conducted. The primary tasks used were the Ambiguous Figures Production and Reversal tasks. The secondary tasks used were metacognitive, executive function and mental imagery tasks. New tasks were also implemented in order to assess reversal abilities. Results Between the ages of 3 and 4 children develop the basic conceptual understanding for reversal (Study 1), that an ambiguous figure can have two interpretations. This is associated with the understanding of false belief, synonymy and homonymy. Between the ages of 4 and 5 children develop inhibitory (Study 3) and image generation abilities (Study 4). These are key cognitive processes necessary for reversal. Contrary to previous research, when task demands were changed (Reversal Task Revised) children’s reversal is at ceiling by the age of 5 (Studies 3 and 4). Eye-tracking data suggests that appropriate eye-movements, focusing on particular parts of the ambiguous figure, are not a primary causal factor in the development of reversal abilities (Study 4). Conclusion The ability to reverse develops in two stages. During stage 1 (between 3 and 4 years) children develop the necessary conceptual understanding that an ambiguous figure can have two interpretations (top-down knowledge). During stage 2 (between 4 and 5 years) children develop the necessary cognitive processes for reversal to occur (inhibition and image generation).
Supervisor: Doherty, Martin J. ; Campbell, Robin N. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: ambiguous figures ; top-down processes ; metarepresentation ; executive function ; mental imagery ; eye-movements ; Children Cognitive psychology Ambiguity ; Imagery (Psychology) Children Case studies ; Children Perception