Differentiation of writing and drawing by U.S. two- to five-year-olds

Research paper by Shoko Otake, Rebecca Treiman, Li Yin

Indexed on: 03 Jul '17Published on: 03 Apr '17Published in: Cognitive Development


To investigate preschoolers’ knowledge about symbol systems, we compared the written and drawn productions of 2–5-year-old U.S. children. In Study 1, children (N = 88) wrote and drew four targets, including their own name and a picture of themselves. Children differentiated writings from drawings in the implements they used, the size of their productions, and their use of recognizable letters. Some distinctions were present in the youngest children and others became more prominent with age. In Study 2, adults (N = 16) who judged whether the productions were writings or drawings performed above the level of chance for all age groups. Adults did better for children’s names and self-portraits than for other targets, suggesting that the name plays a leading role in U.S. children’s learning about writing. Overall, the results show that children begin to learn about formal differences between writing and drawing at an early age.

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