Children’s Non-Spatial and Mental Rotation Abilities

Mental rotation, the ability to mentally manipulate a visual representation of an object and recognize its appearance from a different orientation, shows stability from infancy through preschool. This ability predicts mathematical achievement in kindergarten and beyond as well as entry into the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Marianella Casasola, Human Development, is identifying how non-spatial processes—object features, processing bias, motor experience—contribute to mental rotation abilities. She is assessing an infant cohort at 8 months, a toddler cohort at 20 months, and a preschool cohort at 3 years.

When examined at these specific ages, the sample will provide a snapshot into the association between mental rotation and non-spatial skills. The longitudinal design will allow the investigators to follow participants across infancy, toddlerhood, or the preschool year. The findings will help identify ideal time points for intervention, advance understanding of the factors that contribute to mental rotation and address how individual differences in mental rotation during infancy predict later abilities.

The research will also involve the creation and refinement of measures that can be used to trace the development of mental rotation from infancy into preschool. This will thereby not only contribute new tools to the field but also yield insights that can inform current theoretical conceptions of mental rotation and its relation to non-spatial processes.

Cornell Researchers

Funding Received

$820 Thousand spanning 3 years