Littlest participated in this study about a year ago at Stanford.
The Card Sort game is a well known task in which two through five year olds are asked to sort six cards according to one dimension (shape or color), and then sort six more cards by a second dimension, (the opposite – color or shape). The children sorted these cards into boxes with conflicting dimensions. For instance, when sorting a green flower, the child had the choice of a box with a green sailboat or a box with a yellow flower. The game is designed to assess children’s ability to switch between rules.
As expected, almost all of the children were able to correctly sort the first six cards regardless of whether they were asked to sort by color or shape. However, once the rule was switched and they were asked to sort using the opposite dimension, the younger children had trouble inhibiting their desire to use the first rule they were taught, although they clearly understood the new rule.
Past research on the Card Sort task has shown that different training methods may help children learn to successfully pass the Card Sort task when they might otherwise not be able to do so. This study was designed to assess various training methods and investigate whether children’s improved performance would carry over to a new Card Sort task with different cards and boxes.
Children played the Card Sort game with one of four training variations including having children watch a video of another child sorting correctly, telling the children whether or not they were sorting correctly, having the children label the cards by their shape or color before sorting them, and no training at all.
We found that children who labeled the cards on their own before sorting them performed significantly better in the Card Sort game, and our findings suggest that this training condition was the most effective way to teach 3-year-olds how to pass the Card Sort task. We posit that children in this condition learned a strategy for completing the task and were able to refocus their attention to the relevant sorting dimensions.
We are currently testing more children in this Card Sort task to confirm our initial findings, as well as designing another study to further investigate these training methods.
A year ago at age 3, littlest “failed” miserably.