The Face Rotation Task

This is an experimental task originally developed by Watanabe for young children's spatial perspective taking ability.

Materials. The picture of a girl's face  is used as an experimental stimulus. It is drawn symmetrically on a disk. The reason for using such a face is that it has a clear direction and is familiar to young children. The diameter of the disk is 80 cm and two holes of 10 cm diameter are made 20 cm apart from the center of the circle. The holes are covered with white celluloid boards and represented eyes. The face stimulus is placed on a square plinth of 55 × 55 cm and 15 cm in height. The operation of switches on a control box enables the presentation of a light in either right or left eyes and 2 kinds of buzzer sounds. Additionally the turntable set between the face and the plinth makes it possible to rotate the former very smoothly by hand.

   the plinth with a control box
      the plinth with a control box

 an experimental stimulus with a light in right eye
  an experimental stimulus with a light in right eye

Task. The newly created task was named the 'Face Rotation Task'. In the warm-up session children are allowed to play with the device. After they can recognize the stimulus as a figure of face, the experimental sessions follow. First, the face is rotated to 90, 180, or 270 degrees. These positions are called B, C, and D respectively, while the child's position is A. Either a right or a left eye is lit and simultaneously one of two buzzers is sounded. The different sounds prevent children from feeling the same sound connecting to the different eyes confusing. The directions to which the stimulus is rotated, the position of the lit eye, and the combinations of the eyes and the buzzer sounds are randomized. After the experimenter judges that a child is attending to the light and the sound, the stimulus is returned to the original direction. Children are prevented from perceiving stimulus rotation by having their attention averted or by closing their eyes. Immediately after the rotation, only the buzzer sound that has previously been used is presented again. This task focuses on whether children can understand the eye corresponding to the sound. If anyone can't answer spontaneously with gazing, pointing, or utterance, he or she is asked to suggest which eye should shine.

     appearance of experiment
   The interior is an assistant. This side is an experimenter.
   The child is pointing at a left eye of the face stimulation.

      a response sample (movie)

The logic of the Face Rotation Task is as follows.

When the sound and light are presented, children who could take perspectives would move the imaginary self implicitly to the appropriate position and imagine looking at the face from the front. Then they would learn the correspondence between the presented sound and light. When the buzzer sounds for a question, they could answer correctly, because they would recall the image of the light represented just before. That is, a correct answer would mean the implicit perspective taking ability in them.


Table 1 Numbers of children who made correct responses of
      B & D or B, C, & D patterns in EXPERIMENT T
              Correct Responses    
AGE    N     B & D    B, C, & D
2:6-2:8   7        2        1
2:9-2:11   3        2        0
3:0-3:2   5        3        0
3:3-3:5   8        2        2
3:6-3:8   8        6 *       4 *
3:9-3:11   8        7 *       4 *
4:0-4:2   13       11 *       6 *
4:3-4:5   6        6 *       4 *
TOTAL 58       39       21

'*' marks means significantly more than expected
values of each correct response pattern (p<0.05).
Numbers of B & D pattern include ones of B, C & D pattern.

Table 2  Longitudinal (one year) change of the responses in EXPERIMENT T
                 Incorrect       Correct       TOTAL
                        B & D  B, C, & D
First   Incorrect        2      3       5      10
     Correct B & D     0       1       0      1
     B, C, & D        0       0       1       1
TOTAL              2      4       6      12

The experiments with this task are in the Japanese Journal of Psychology (71,26-33. in Japanese).
It's abstract is as follows.

Can three-year old children take spatial perspectives?: An approach with the ' Face Rotation Task '

                   M. WATANABE

Spatial perspective taking ability of 2;6 to 4;5 year old children was investigated by a newly devised task, named the ' Face Rotation Task '. One lit eye, right or left, and a buzzer sound were presented on an illustrated face which had been rotated to 90, 180, or 270 degrees from children. They were required to memorize the combination, the face was rotated back to the child direction of 0 degrees, and the previous sound was presented again. Children were asked to look or point at the position of the expected lit eye. Children of over 3.5 years performed significantly better than chance expectation. As an attempt to clarify the mental strategy employed, thirty-six children who made correct responses in the first experiment took part in a second experiment, which consisted of a modified Face Rotation Task. The result indicated that the mental strategy used by the children was perspective taking. The implications of these results were discussed in terms of the appropriate meaning of perspective taking ability.


Shiga University Otsu Campus