(from ERIC abstract): This book deals with the development of the child’s notion about space. The authors’ investigations have been concerned with the order and manner in which children begin to imagine or visualize the various spatial entities and spatial characteristics of objects. They report that the child first recognizes various objects by sense of touch alone and is followed by building up and using certain primitive relationships. Contrary to the historical development of geometry which began with treatment of straight lines, angles, distances, and plane figures, Piaget and Inhelder find that the child begins by noting the topological as opposed to the metric properties of objects. He begins by ignoring straight lines, angles, parallels, and the regular forms thereby constituted and considers only qualities such as closure, proximity, separation and continuity. From such beginnings he is finally able to deal with metric properties such as conservation of direction, distance and relative operation. The child is thus able to establish a spatial “schema” or network of dimensions in which the spatial properties of objects can be organized. The authors develop the theories advanced in previous works to indicate the nature of the psychological mechanisms required to mediate spatial properties and endeavor to show the interrelationships between logical and psychological systems laid down.

Full citation:

Piaget, J. and B. Inhelder (1967). A Child’s Conception of Space (F. J. Langdon & J. L. Lunzer, Trans.). New York: Norton (Original work published 1948)

The Child’s Conception of Space
Jean Piaget and Bärbel Inhelder

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