Developing an understanding of graphic representations in children and adults: The case of GEO-graphics

Lynn S. Liben, Roger M. Downs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Graphic representations are important for symbolic thought and communication. Here we provide a general definition of graphic representations and discuss some similarities and differences to more commonly studied linguistic representations. We then focus on characteristics of one particular type of graphic representation-those that represent the world or "geo" and hence, "GEO-graphics." Through the use of models from cartography, we highlight qualities of representational and geometric correspondences between the referent space and the GEO-graphic representation, and suggest that an understanding of these graphics rests on the child's developing representational and spatial skills more generally. Empirical data on elementary-school children's interpretations of GEO-graphics illustrate the emergence of understanding in this domain. Finally, we suggest that the development of children's understanding of representation may be characterized as progressing from syncretism, to syncretic representation, to naive conventional representation, and finally to meta-representation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-349
Number of pages19
JournalCognitive Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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