Spatial Cognition

In our most natural settings we often navigate through complex, multi-segment routes in order to travel to work or to find our way home. In order to achieve this, we must form representations of these environments in a way that allows us to effectively encode and access important spatial information.
Within this context, several research projects have evaluated how various types of information are used to process environments of different scales including: figural spaces (e.g., objects, pictures, maps), vista spaces (e.g., rooms, plazas), and environmental spaces (e.g., buildings, cities) (Meilinger, Ruddle). Other studies have looked at the interaction between language and spatial processing and have evaluated empirical and theoretical aspects of different types of memory systems (Meilinger). Using simpler routes, additional research has examined the influence of visual imagery on a homing task in which participants are asked to return to a start position in the dark after maneuvering through a multi-segment route in a virtual environment (Tcheang). By manipulating the visual gain experienced during navigation, one can interpret participant’s responses in a way that provides insight into the extent to which visual information contributes to path integration.
Others have looked at the effects of different sensory information on the performance of spatial tasks that occur after a change in viewpoint. Specifically, changes in viewpoint can arise either from the rotation of the environment/object or from the rotation of the observer. Research has been conducted to assess how the availability of various sensory cues (i.e. visual, auditory, and vestibular) contributes to updating performance following a viewpoint change within a realistic virtual environment (indoor room; Vidal). Others have looked at how well abstract objects are recognized from novel viewpoints and specifically how this is affected by the mode of viewpoint change; in particular whether the object is rotated (in the absence of observer movement) or whether the observer walked around the object (Teramoto).
Last updated: Tuesday, 07.05.2013