Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2010

Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)

Degree In


First Advisor

Jodie M. Plumert

First Committee Member

Larissa Samuelson

Second Committee Member

John Spencer


We conducted three experiments to better understand how mothers structure their input to young children for finding hidden objects and how young children use this input to guide their searches. We examined the reference frames and spatial terms mothers use to communicate with their 2.5-, 3.0-, and 3.5-year-old children about location by asking mothers to verbally disambiguate a target hiding container from an identical non-target hiding container for their child. We varied the relative proximity of the target and non-target containers to a landmark and to the mother and child. The target and non-target containers were on opposite sides of the landmark in Experiment 1 and on the same side of the landmark in Experiments 2 and 3. The absolute distance of the containers from the landmark was increased in Experiment 3, while the relative distance of the containers to the landmark and to the mother and child remained the same. In all of the experiments, mothers' reference frame use was governed by the relative proximity of the target and non-target containers to the landmark and themselves. Older children followed directions more successfully than did younger children. The Discussion focuses on how the age of the child and the characteristics of the task shape maternal spatial communication.


maternal input, reference frames, spatial communication, spatial development


vi, 57 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 55-57).


Copyright 2010 Kathryn Ann Haggerty

Included in

Psychology Commons