Dual representation is the concept that the ability to use a symbolic object (such as a map or a model) arises from mentally representing the object in two different ways, as an actual object and as a symbol for the object.
Young children do not have this ability and are unable to comprehend when an object is a symbolic representation of another object. Studies have shown this in the usage of a room and a small identical model of the room. A researcher hides a toy in the smaller model of the room in front of the child and tells the child the toy is hiding in the same place in the larger room. Children up to 3 years of age are unable to find the object in the real room because they cannot comprehend that the smaller room is a symbolic representation of the larger room and that the toy will be in the same location. Once children reach the age of 3 they are able to find the toy in the larger room. At this age dual representation is present and children are able to mentally represent the room in their mind at the same time and conclude the location of the toy.