Groups of children and adolescents of average intelligence, at every age from 6 to 18 years, and college students of slightly above average intelligence were presented with two-disk and three-disk versions of the Tower of Hanoi problem. Criterion was two successive solutions in the minimum number of moves. Ability to reach criterion on the two-disk problem increased to near-perfect performance at age 8. On the three-disk problem, there were two transition periods—one between 7 and 9 years of age, the other between 11 and 14 years of age. The incorrect first move was the largest source of error on the three-disk problem.
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This study was supported in part by Grant HD 07329 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The authors are most grateful to Joseph Anghelone, Peter Buerman, Vic Combs, Harold Cox, Stephanie Craib, Richard Dougherty, Margaret Martin, Robert McFrye, Mary Murphy, Norma Nachtsheim, Edgar Thomas, and Jan Wallender for providing space and arranging for student participation, to Martin Groff for his aid in compiling the material for this study, and to Suzanne Borys for statistical assistance.
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Byrnes, M.M., Spitz, H.H. Developmental progression of performance on the Tower of Hanoi problem. Bull. Psychon. Soc. 14, 379–381 (1979). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03329485