Change of reference frame for tactile localization during child development


Brigitte Röder, Biological Psychology and Neuropsychology, University of Hamburg, Von-Melle-Park 11, R.203, 20146 Hamburg, Germany; e-mail:


Temporal order judgements (TOJ) for two tactile stimuli, one presented to the left and one to the right hand, are less precise when the hands are crossed over the midline than when the hands are uncrossed. This ‘crossed hand’ effect has been considered as evidence for a remapping of tactile input into an external reference frame. Since late, but not early, blind individuals show such remapping, it has been hypothesized that the use of an external reference frame develops during childhood. Five- to 10-year-old children were therefore tested with the tactile TOJ task, both with uncrossed and crossed hands. Overall performance in the TOJ task improved with age. While children older than 5½ years displayed a crossed hand effect, younger children did not. Therefore the use of an external reference frame for tactile, and possibly multisensory, localization seems to be acquired at age 5.