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22-02-2016 | Original Article | Uitgave 2/2017

Psychological Research 2/2017

How directions of route descriptions influence orientation specificity: the contribution of spatial abilities

Psychological Research > Uitgave 2/2017
Chiara Meneghetti, Veronica Muffato, Diego Varotto, Rossana De Beni


Previous studies found mental representations of route descriptions north-up oriented when egocentric experience (given by the protagonist’s initial view) was congruent with the global reference system. This study examines: (a) the development and maintenance of representations derived from descriptions when the egocentric and global reference systems are congruent or incongruent; and (b) how spatial abilities modulate these representations. Sixty participants (in two groups of 30) heard route descriptions of a protagonist’s moves starting from the bottom of a layout and headed mainly northwards (SN description) in one group, and headed south from the top (NS description, the egocentric view facing in the opposite direction to the canonical north) in the other. Description recall was tested with map drawing (after hearing the description a first and second time; i.e. Time 1 and 2) and South-North (SN) or North–South (NS) pointing tasks; and spatial objective tasks were administered. The results showed that: (a) the drawings were more rotated in NS than in SN descriptions, and performed better at Time 2 than at Time 1 for both types of description; SN pointing was more accurate than NS pointing for the SN description, while SN and NS pointing accuracy did not differ for the NS description; (b) spatial (rotation) abilities were related to recall accuracy for both types of description, but were more so for the NS ones. Overall, our results showed that the way in which spatial information is conveyed (with/without congruence between the egocentric and global reference systems) and spatial abilities influence the development and maintenance of mental representations.

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