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Developmental differences between 1st and 3rd year of Early Childhood Education (preschool) in mental rotation and its training

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Research has shown that mental rotation (MR) can be improved through training. However, studies with preschool children are very scarce, due in part to the lack of consensus as to the age at which this ability arises and can be trained, and due to the difficulties of working on the understanding of this ability when it begins to develop. The present study was designed to observe the effect of an MR training on 1st (3–4-year-old children) and 3rd year (5–6-year-old children) of Early Childhood Education (preschool), as well as the development of this ability between both courses. Finally, this study aimed to analyze the differential increase of the training effect in relation to the initial MR ability of the participants. The results showed a significant improvement in the participants who underwent training in 3rd year of preschool, with the trained group showing a marginal improvement in 1st year of preschool. The older group showed lower error rates in training performance than the younger group, the latter having a linear decrease in performance as the angular disparity increased. In addition, in relation to training, a greater increase of MR was observed in the 3rd year preschoolers with lower scores in the pretest. These results suggest that MR is in full development and that it is a spatial ability that can be trained at preschool ages. In addition, the possibility of enhancing this ability to a greater extent in preschoolers who exhibit lower initial MR level is especially relevant.

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This research falls into the research line for which the authors have received financial support under the research project EDU2013-46437-R from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. The authors wish to express their thanks to the “Instituto Veritas” School from Madrid for making available the sample of participants and the facilities of each school to carry out the tasks. The authors would also like to thank Dr. María Fernández Cahill for proofreading this manuscript.


This study was funded by Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (EDU2013-46437-R).

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Correspondence to Laura M. Fernández-Méndez.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Fernández-Méndez, L.M., Contreras, M.J. & Elosúa, M.R. Developmental differences between 1st and 3rd year of Early Childhood Education (preschool) in mental rotation and its training. Psychological Research (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-018-1104-6

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