One brick at a time: Building a developmental profile of spatial abilities

Daniela E. Aguilar Ramirez, Jarrod Blinch, Claudia L.R. Gonzalez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spatial abilities are not only fundamental for activities of daily living, but they are also markers of academic and professional success. It has remained a challenge, however, to understand their development across childhood and adolescence, partly because of the lack of spatial tasks that are appropriate across age groups. For example, the well-established paper-based mental rotation test (MRT) has been shown to be too difficult for children. In the current study, we tested girls and boys in three age groups: younger children (5–8-years-old), older children (9–12), and adolescents (13–17) on a hands-on visuospatial task using toy bricks: the brick-building task (BBT). Children completed a low- and a high-mental rotation demand (LMR and HMR) version of the BBT and the paper-based MRT. Correlations were found between all tasks. Children, especially females, found the HMR more challenging than the LMR condition, but all children successfully completed the BBT. In contrast, the MRT was too difficult for the younger children to solve performing at chance. Given this result and that the BBT is a game-like, 3D, interactive task, the BBT could be used to examine the biological and/or environmental factors that affect the early development of visuospatial abilities.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere22155
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • adolescent development
  • child development
  • sex characteristics
  • spatial processing


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