We investigated cognitive skills that contribute to 4-year-olds' understanding of representations. In our main task, children used representations on a perspective line drawing to find stickers hidden in a model room. To compare the contributions made by various cognitive skills with children's understanding of different types of representations, we manipulated the resemblance between the representations and their referents. Our results indicate that when representations are iconic (i.e., look like their referents), children have very little difficulty with the task. Controlling for performance on this baseline version of the task, we found that specific cognitive skills are differentially predictive of performance when using arbitrary and conflicting representations (i.e., symbols). When the representation was arbitrarily linked to the sticker, performance was related to phonological and visuospatial working memory. When the representation matched the color of an alternate sticker (thereby conflicting with the desired sticker), performance was related to phonological working memory and inhibitory control. We discuss the role that different cognitive skills play in representational understanding as a function of the nature of the representation-referent relation.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Executive function, Inhibitory control, Maps, Representations, Symbols, Working memory
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2013.05.003
Journal Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
Astle, A. (Andrea), Kamawar, D, Vendetti, C. (Corrie), & Podjarny, G. (Gal). (2013). When this means that: The role of working memory and inhibitory control in children's understanding of representations. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 116(2), 169–185. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2013.05.003