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01-03-2015 | Original Paper | Uitgave 2/2015

Psychological Research 2/2015

Mental representations derived from spatial descriptions: the influence of orientation specificity and visuospatial abilities

Tijdschrift:
Psychological Research > Uitgave 2/2015
Auteurs:
Chiara Meneghetti, Francesca Pazzaglia, Rossana De Beni

Abstract

This study aimed to investigate the orientation dependence effect and the role of visuospatial abilities in mental representations derived from spatial descriptions. The analysis focused on how the orientation effect and the involvement of visuospatial abilities change when survey and route descriptions are used, and the initial and main orientation of an imaginary tour. In Experiment 1, 48 participants listened to survey or route descriptions in which information was mainly north-oriented (matching the initial heading and main direction of travel expressed in the description). In Experiment 2, 40 participants listened to route descriptions in which the initial orientation (north-oriented) was mismatched with the main direction of travel (east-oriented). Participants performed pointing task while facing north vs south (Exp. 1 and 2), and while facing east vs west (Exp. 2), as well as a map drawing task and several visuospatial measures. In both experiments, the results showed that pointing was easier while facing north than while facing south, and map drawings were arranged with a north-up orientation (with no difference between survey and route descriptions). In Experiment 2, pointing while facing east was easier than in the other pointing conditions. The results obtained with the visuospatial tasks showed that perspective-taking (PT) skill was the main predictor of the ability to imagine positions misaligned with the direction expressed in the descriptions (i.e. pointing while facing south in Experiment 1; pointing while facing north, south or west in Experiment 2). Overall, these findings indicate that mental representations derived from spatial descriptions are specifically oriented and their orientation is influenced by the main direction of travel and by the initial orientation. These mental representations, and the adoption of counter-aligned imaginary orientations, demand visuospatial skills and PT ability in particular.

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