The Development of Size Sequencing Skills:
An Empirical and Computational Analysis

Volume 84, Issue 4, Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development

By Maggie McGonigle-Chalmers, M.A., Ph.D.,
and Iain Kusel, M.A., M.Sc., Ph.D.

Included in this issue:


Cover of the Volume 84 Issue 4 of the scholarly journal, Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development

In this monograph, Maggie McGonigle-Chalmers and Iain Kusel report an investigation into a phenomenon called size seriation. At around the age of seven years children suddenly become capable of systematically organizing objects in order of size. Using touchscreen tasks, they explore the differences between children of five and seven years when learning seriation tasks and when trying to identify size relations such as middle-sized. A computer model simulates the findings and shows how the act of size sequencing itself, together with an increase in memory capacity, creates a new solution for the older child that is not available to the younger child. Taken together, the findings and model reveal changes in mental functioning that explain spontaneous seriation and how the concept of a “unit” emerges during development.

About the Authors

Maggie McGonigle-Chalmers

Department of Psychology,
University of Edinburgh

Maggie McGonigle-Chalmers, M.A., Ph.D., is a Retired Senior Lecturer (Honorary Fellow) from the University of Edinburgh, Psychology Department with research interest in Comparative and Developmental Cognition and Autism Spectrum Disorders. In addition to the publications arising from that work, she has authored a textbook entitled Understanding Cognitive Development (SAGE Publications 2014).

Iain Kusel

Department of Psychology,
University of Edinburgh

Iain Kusel, M.A., M.Sc., Ph.D., has research interests in cognitive modelling and developmental psychology. His PhD was supervised by Professor Jeff Johnston and Dr Anthony Lucas-Smith of the Design Group (Complexity Science and Design), Faculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology, The Open University and he is currently a software engineer at the Sword Group.



Overview: Seriation – A Developmental Issue
In this overview video, Dr. Maggie McGonigle-Chalmers (University of Edinburgh) explains the behaviors of 5-year-olds as they struggle with (and eventually solve) the size-seriation task originally made famous by Jean Piaget. Dr. McGonigle-Chalmers also highlights new methods that she and co-author Dr. Iain Kusel (University of Edinburgh) used in their research, published in the November 2019 issue of the Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development.

Methodological Lesson: Modeling the Emergence of Size Sequencing Skills
With the help of whiteboard animations, Dr. Iain Kusel (University of Edinburgh) presents an easy-to-digest introduction for researchers and students alike on how a specific computational modeling approach was applied to children’s developing size-seriation skills in the work reported in the November 2019 Monograph of the Society for Research in Child Development, co-authored with Dr. Maggie McGonigle-Chalmers (University of Edinburgh).

Teaching Resources