Children's creation of algorithms: simulations and gestures

Monica Bucciarelli , Robert Mackiewicz , Sangeet S. Khemlani , Philip N. Johnson-Laird


Experiments showed that children are able to create algorithms, that is, sequences of operations that solve problems, and that their gestures help them to do so. The theory of mental models, which is implemented in a computer program, postulates that the creation of algorithms depends on mental simulations that unfold in time. Gestures are outward signs of moves and they help the process. We tested 10-year-old children, because they can plan, and because they gesture more than adults. They were able to rearrange the order of 6 cars in a train (using a siding), and the difficulty of the task depended on the number of moves in minimal solutions (Experiment 1). They were also able to devise informal algorithms to rearrange the order of cars when they were not allowed to move the cars, and the difficulty of the task depended on the complexity of the algorithms (Experiment 2). When children were prevented from gesturing as they formulated algorithms, the accuracy of their algorithms declined by 13% (Experiment 3). We discuss the implications of these results.
Author Monica Bucciarelli
Monica Bucciarelli,,
, Robert Mackiewicz (Wydział Psychologii)
Robert Mackiewicz,,
- Wydział Psychologii
, Sangeet S. Khemlani
Sangeet S. Khemlani,,
, Philip N. Johnson-Laird
Philip N. Johnson-Laird,,
Journal seriesJournal of Cognitive Psychology, ISSN 2044-5911, (A 20 pkt)
Issue year2016
Publication size in sheets1.05
Keywords in Englishalgorithmic reasoning; gestures; mental simulation; mental models
ASJC Classification1201 Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous); 3205 Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
Project-. Project leader: Mackiewicz Robert, , application date 16-09-2014, start date 14-04-2014, end date 13-04-2017, 2014/14/M/HS6/00916, Implemented
Wydział Psychologii NSC Projects [Projekty NCN]
Languageen angielski
Bucciarelli et al Children and simulations_JofCogPsych_2016.pdf 1.66 MB
Additional file
2017-03-13-12-18-47-321 (7).pdf 17.88 KB
Score (nominal)20
Publication indicators Scopus SNIP (Source Normalised Impact per Paper): 2016 = 0.874; WoS Impact Factor: 2016 = 1.503 (2) - 2016=1.766 (5)
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