Leaping from line to laughter : young children's understanding of visual metaphor



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The current study was designed to test metaphoric understanding in children ages 3,10 to 6,7. Subjects first participated in a test of physiognomic sensitivity, a sorting task in which abstract lines, colors, and simple pictures were matched affectively to stick figures expressing various emotions. Subjects then were asked to choose two pictures within triads that they felt "go together in some special way". Pictures could be matched on metaphoric, functional, categorical, or analytical bases. Two triad sets were employed, one derived from those developed by Kogan, Connor, Gross, and Fava (1980) for the Metaphoric Triads Task (MTT). The other triad set was created and drawn by the author. The latter set was designed with the preschool child in mind, depicting scenes, characters, and events that are familiar to the very young child. It was hypothesized that preschool age children would demonstrate physiognomic sensitivity as measured in the sorting task. Further, an age effect was predicted relative to performance on MTT triads. Finally, it was hypothesized that the performance level would improve on child-referenced triads for all subjects, and with kindergarten-age children scoring the highest. Results revealed support for all hypotheses.



Metaphor--Psychological aspects, Child psychology, Creative ability in children