Jodie Plumert, University of Iowa
Abstract: The ability to scale distance is a fundamental skill involved in a wide variety of complex human activities, including reading maps of large-scale spaces, creating architectural drawings of buildings, and understanding structures in cell diagrams. In all of these activities, individuals must understand relative distance, or how distances in two differently-sized spaces map onto one another. However, the processes underlying visual scaling in young children (and adults) are not yet well understood. This talk reports on three experiments in which we examined how 4- to 5-year-old children and adults visually scale distance along a single dimension (length). We asked three questions: 1) Is it harder to visually scale distance with larger than smaller scale ratios? 2) Is it harder to scale up than down? and 3) Are the processes underlying visual scaling age-dependent? The talk concludes with a discussion of how visual scaling emerges from a complex interplay of memory representations, visual constraints, and environmental structure.