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Reference frames in spatial integration, memory, and recall


Meilinger,  Tobias
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Meilinger, T. (2014). Reference frames in spatial integration, memory, and recall. Talk presented at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg: Center for Cognitive Science. Freiburg i. Br., Germany.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-33BA-4
Humans acquire spatial information about rooms, buildings, or cities from experienced views, movement trajectories, maps, or descriptions. These pieces of information are memorized, integrated to cover larger spatial areas, and recalled in order to navigate within an environment. We examine how such spatial information is organized: which pieces are represented together relative to which reference frame? Results showed that complex urban spaces acquired from navigation are represented within multiple, local reference frames, e.g., corresponding to corridors or streets. In case these have to be integrated, for example, when pointing to a distant location or searching for a shortcut, this is done incrementally at the current time and location. If navigators also had access to maps, they use a map based reference frame for pointing, maybe to circumvent cognitive costly integration. Despite map experience, route navigation still relies on multiple, local reference frames likely acquired from navigation. When recalling spatial layout information of highly-familiar environments navigators adjust it spontaneously to their current physical or imagined body orientation. Contrary to navigational spaces, integrating spatial information presented on a screen is more flexible. With sufficient time during learning, the possibility to update information between presentations, or knowing from where to use this information participants integrate within the reference frame of the first encountered view, a later updated view, or the orientation the information is used respectively. In summary, navigators flexibly adjust spatial reference frames to the available information and situational context.