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Symbolic Representation

The ability to understand and use symbols is integral to communication and learning. This entry provides an overview of symbols as something that someone intends to stand for something else. Symbols should bring to mind representations of their referents, even when the symbol and referent lack perceptual similarities. They may range from highly iconic (e.g., photographs) to highly abstract (e.g., language). Every day, we encounter a variety of symbol types from text written on a page to maps on a computer. Early on in life, children must contend with these different symbols types and determine their functions and referents. This entry discusses children’s developing understanding of several symbol types. As will be shown, each symbol type presents unique challenges, and children’s understanding of different symbol ...

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