ROBERTA T PALEY, Fordham University


The present study investigated whether symmetrical organization facilitates memory for form in two to four year olds and examined the effect of pattern complexity in preschool children. Two phases were included: (1) a discrimination task which indicated whether the child could distinguish between vertically or horizontally symmetrical forms and (2) a generalization task which indicated whether the child had learned to respond to the structural organization provided by the symmetry. The children were tested in a discrimination-learning paradigm in which they were required to discriminate between pairs of stimuli: (1) vertical symmetry-asymmetry, (2) horizontal symmetry-asymmetry, (3) asymmetry-asymmetry at each of two levels of pattern complexity. Those children who learned the discrimination were tested in the generalization task. This research has established sensitivity to symmetrical organization in preschoolers. This sensitivity was found to interact with stimulus complexity. While performance on all problems improved with age, the facilitating effect of symmetry over asymmetry appeared equivalent in all children tested. The increased salience of the high complexity forms over the low complexity forms may be attributed to developmental variation in perceiving pattern complexity, experimental methodology, and stimulus characteristics. The axis of symmetry does not appear to play a critical role. The discrimination-learning paradigm was able to detect a child's readiness to learn a concept of symmetrical organization and create a subject sophistication which attenuated a vertical advantage. A vertical advantage did emerge for the younger children who learned the symmetry-asymmetry discriminations and for all subjects tested on the generalization task. This suggests that when a child is beginning to develop a sensitivity to symmetrical organization or when task requirements are difficult, a vertical advantage emerges.

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Recommended Citation

PALEY, ROBERTA T, "THE ROLE OF SYMMETRY IN PRESCHOOLERS' MEMORY FOR FORM" (1983). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8415519.