books at home (Logan & Medford, 2011), to higher instances of imaginative play (Serbin, Moller, Powlishta & Gulko, 1991) or to superior linguistic skills (Goldin-Meadow, Levine, Hedges, Huttenlocher, Raudenbush, & Small, 2014; Gopnik & Meltzoff, 1987; Gopnik & Meltzoff, 1997; Schachter & Coll, 1978). These differences between the sexes were to prove a feature of subsequent studies and so are discussed in greater detail following Study 2. The other particularly striking feature was the finding that virtually every child performed better when the task involved toys than when it involved images and this trend was most apparent amongst boys. This serves to validate Mandler’s (2004) assertion that the provision of objects enables participants to explore their properties and qualities whilst images engender participant apathy. As many theories regarding the development of categorisation during the pre-school period are predicated on the use of image based match-to-sample tasks (Blaye, Bernard-Peyron & Bonthoux, 2000; Diesendruck, Hammer & Catz, 2003; Fang, Fang & Xi,
110 1991; Gelman & Markman, 1986; Liu, Song & Seger, 2012; Scheuner, Bonthoux & Cannard, 2004; Yao & Sloutsky, 2010), it also brings into question their conclusions regarding the age at which key abilities emerge. It appears highly possible that the use of images in tests had masked participant’s conceptual understanding. By and large, superior performance was also associated with socio-economic status, with the girls in Cohort 2 achieving the highest scores and boys from Cohort 1 achieving the lowest scores. These results mirror research findings regarding the link between deprivation and low academic achievement (Gupta, 2000; Snook & O’Neill, 2010) and are also in keeping with national trends at GCSE, where middle class girls achieve most highly and working class boys achieve the poorest results (Department of Education, 2013). The superior performance of the girls from the more disadvantaged background in the 3D categorisation test, however, remains an anomaly. Whilst conclusions from such a small scale investigation must necessarily be tentative, this clear gender divide amongst pre-school aged children helps to contextualise boy’s poor academic and examination performance later in the school system. It is suggested there are likely to be contiguous factors contributing to this achievement gap (NatCen, 2013). These shall be discussed in greater detail later. These results clearly required further investigation in order to ascertain whether they were context specific or replicated in other settings with similar cohorts. It was therefore decided to extend the study and recruit further participants from diverse backgrounds. (See Study 2) In order to check for potential confounds within Study 1(a), a further small scale study was undertaken. 4.7. Study 1(b) The Impact of Modality and Dimensionality on Pre-School Children’s Ability to Categorise Addressing PhD Objectives 3 - 6.
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