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Space Perception, Cognitive Development and Physical Child Environment

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  • Design
  • Ecology
  • Education
  • Geography
  • Mathematics
  • Musicology
  • Physics
  • Psychology


"To design "ideal spaces" that may contribute to a correct development ofchildren (physical and mental), is a general goal shared both by architectsand psycologists-among other specialists-. In the last two decades it hasbeen strongly impulsed by the progressive extention of preschool child-careInstitutions.In theoretical and methodogical terms, that purpose points out the difficultyto establish a clear relationship between cognitive development (impulsedby motor, perceptual and emotional responses to environmental changes ordisruptions) and a set of characteristics present in the physical environ-ment of the center, considered isolatediy from other sources of variationsuch as educational style of the center, for example. Spatial distribution,level of acoustic pressure and material infrastructure for the pedagogicalneeds seem to be important physical cues which may affect cognitive devel-opment.But even in recent reviews of the problem, one can notice an oversimplifi-cation In the psychological parameters related to this development, speciallyin the studies with better definition and control of built environment varia-bles (see Spaces for children, Weinstein and David 1987, Plenum Press).In the opposite way, this paper will emphasize the development of the per-ception and mental representation of space, from birth to the final assimi-lations of the Euclidean and projective relations among objects in the visualfield. This study suggests some general ideas about how the physical envi-ronment should be to strengthen the child development. In this context, the paper will point out:a) The necessity of paying more attention, in the design of the inner space ofthe center and its distribution, to its topological rapports (proximity, sep-arations, contours, order relations, etc, between components), which im-plies a great mobility af all these elements of the setting. In fact, these rap-ports seem to be previous (Piaget, 1947) to any mental or Euclideanrepresentation of space. They are prefigured in the tactokinessic activity.So, the design of the space must "provoke" the motor and perceptual activi-ty.b) In the chapter of the acoustical conditions, not only a convenient pertec-lion from loud noise and an appropiate stimulation of tonal proception arenecessary in the center, but also and adequate setting for the development ofspatial localization of sound sources. The paper includes some Ideas in thisway. Moreover, this perceptual activity plays an important role in the evo-lution of sensibility to spatial configurations.c) Necessity of more research by the environmental psychologists on thechildrens' emotional reactions to certain spatial configurations to determinemost comfortable settings. These reactions are probably related to earlyfantasies, and they are within the basis of primitive inside/outside notions.Cognitive notions such as "place identity" or "place belongingness" aresurely affected by these emotional reactions to certain physical cues thatfurther research in this field may reveal."

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