Young Children’s Ability to Use Ordinal Labels in a Spatial Search Task

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Janet J. Boseovski, Associate Professor (Creator)
Stuart Marcovitch, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Psychology (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: The use and understanding of ordinal terms (e.g., “first” and “second”) is a developmental milestone that has been relatively unexplored in the preschool age range. In the present study, 4- and 5-year-olds watched as a reward was placed in one of three train cars labeled by the experimenter with an ordinal (e.g., first car), color (e.g., brown car), or generic label (e.g., that car). Results revealed that 4-year-olds actually had more difficulty retrieving the reward once occluded under identical tunnels when they were provided with ordinal labels compared to color and generic labels. Search performance improved with age and showed dramatic growth in the ordinal-label condition from 4 to 5 years of age. Results are discussed with regard to children’s ability to use verbal labels of developing conceptual knowledge (i.e., linked to ordinality) to guide behavior.

Additional Information

Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 61(3), 345-361
Language: English
Date: 2015
Ordinal terms, Preschoolers, Child psychology

Email this document to