The development of the size–weight illusion in children coincides with the development of nonverbal cognition rather than motor skills

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Chouinard, Philippe A ORCID: 0000-0001-9817-0689, Matheson, Kezia G, Royals, Kayla A, Landry, Oriane ORCID: 0000-0001-9390-8373, Buckingham, Gavin ORCID: 0000-0002-6950-5504, Saccone, Elizabeth J and Hocking, Darren ORCID: 0000-0003-1143-8190 (2019) The development of the size–weight illusion in children coincides with the development of nonverbal cognition rather than motor skills. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 184. pp. 48-64. ISSN 0022-0965


We examined how the strength of the size–weight illusion develops with age in typically developing children. To this end, we recruited children aged 5–12 years and quantified the degree to which they experienced the illusion. We hypothesized that the strength of the illusion would increase with age. The results supported this hypothesis. We also measured abilities in manual dexterity, receptive language, and abstract reasoning to determine whether changes in illusion strength were associated with these factors. Manual dexterity and receptive language did not correlate with illusion strength. Conversely, illusion strength and abstract reasoning were tightly coupled with each other. Multiple regression further revealed that age, manual dexterity, and receptive language did not contribute more to the variance in illusion strength beyond children's abilities in abstract reasoning. Taken together, the effects of age on the size–weight illusion appear to be explained by the development of nonverbal cognition. These findings not only inform the literature on child development but also have implications for theoretical explanations on the size–weight illusion. We suggest that the illusion has a strong acquired component to it and that it is strengthened by children's reasoning skills and perhaps an understanding of the world that develops with age.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.1016/j.jecp.2019.03.006
Official URL
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4207 Sports science and exercise
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords motor skills, child development, size weight illusion, SWI, expectancy
Citations in Scopus 4 - View on Scopus
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