Spatial knowledge in a young blind child

Barbara Landau, Elizabeth Spelke, Henry Gleitman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A set of eight experiments demonstrate spatial knowledge in a 2-year-old congenitally blind child and sighted blindfolded controls. Once the blind child had traveled along specific paths between objects in a novel array, she was able to make spatial inferences, finding new routes between those objects (Experiment 1). She could also do so when the routes were between places in space, not occupied by objects (Experiment II). Deviations from precisely straight routes in Experiments I and II were not due to faulty inferences, but probably came from imprecise motor control, since the same deviations occured when inferences were not required-when the child moved to a place designated by a sound source (Experiment III). This child's performances could not be accounted for by artifactual explanations: sound cues, experimenter bias, and echolocation were ruled out (Experiments IV, V, VI). Further, sighted blindfolded controls performed at roughly the same level (Experiment VII). Finally, Experiment VIII shows that the blind child could access her spatial knowledge for use in a simple map-reading task. We conclude that the young blind child has a system of spatial knowledge, including abstract, amodal rules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-260
Number of pages36
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1984
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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