Animal magnetism: Evidence for an attraction account of closing-in behaviour in pre-school children

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Many pre-school children show 'Closing-in behaviour' (CIB) in graphic copying, placing their copy excessively close to, or even on top of the original. This behaviour can also be observed in patients with dementia, though it is unclear whether the superficial similarities between CIB in development and dementia reflect common underlying mechanisms. Two main hypotheses have been proposed to account for CIB: the compensation hypothesis considers CIB as a strategic adaptation to underlying deficits in visuospatial and/or memory functions; the attraction hypothesis proposes that CIB is a primitive default behaviour in which the acting hand is drawn towards the focus of visual attention. The present study tested between these hypotheses in a group of 15 pre-school children. The children performed a simple straight-line drawing task whilst naming line drawings of animals printed at the top or bottom of the sheet. The drawn lines veered reliably towards the named animals, mimicking CIB in copying tasks. This pattern is not predicted by the compensation hypothesis, but is consistent with the attraction account. We suggest that this default attraction may emerge in children with insufficiently developed attentional and/or executive control.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278-284
Number of pages7
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009


  • closing-in behaviour
  • constructional apraxia
  • copying
  • drawing
  • children


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