The Emerging Spatial Mind

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The participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups: cues 1 pattern or pattern only. The participants experienced a training phase, followed by a testing phase. Visual cues specified the goal locations during training only for the cues 1 pattern group. Both groups were then tested in the absence of visual cues. The results in both environments indicated that the participants learned the spatial relations among goal locations. However, visual cues during training facilitated learning of the spatial relations among goal locations: In both environments, the participants trained with the visual cues made fewer errors during testing than did those trained only with the pattern.

The results suggest that learning based on the spatial relations among locations may not be susceptible to cue competition effects and have implications for standard associative and dual-system accounts of spatial learning. Skip to main content Skip to sections. Advertisement Hide. Download PDF.

Facilitation of learning spatial relations among locations by visual cues: Implications for theoretical accounts of spatial learning. Brief Reports. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves. Download to read the full article text. Brown, M. Abstracting spatial relations among goal locations. Cook Eds. Available at www. Google Scholar. Control of choice by the spatial configuration of goals. No evidence for overshadowing or facilitation of spatial pattern learning by visual cues.

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Spatial memory: How egocentric and allocentric combine. Trends in Cognitive Sciences , 10 , — Chamizo, V. Acquisition of knowledge about spatial location: Assessing the generality of the mechanism of learning. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology , 56B , — Cheng, K. Cognition , 23 , — Whither geometry? Troubles of the geometric module. Trends in Cognitive Sciences , 12 , — Is there a geometric module for spatial orientation? Squaring theory and evidence. Geometry, features, and orientation in vertebrate animals: A pictorial review.

Bayesian integration of spatial information. Psychological Bulletin , , — Doeller, C. Distinct error-correcting and incidental learning location relative to landmarks and boundaries. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , , — Parallel striatal and hippocampal systems for landmarks and boundaries in spatial memory. Ellmore, T. The overall task performance differences suggest that additional processes are required for generation compared to maintenance. Both processes require activating stored visual memories, but image generation may additionally require accessing stored visual memories for information about what to image [ 23 ].

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Our findings of higher error rate in the three oldest age groups and longer response times in image generation support this claim. In sum, the results of Experiment 1 suggest that basic image generation and maintenance abilities can be present at 4 years of age. That is, in addition to research finding that 2- to 4-year-old children use imagery when prompted to do so e. Additionally, the precision with which images are generated and maintained improves particularly between 4 and 8 years of age. Moreover, mental imagery processes go beyond the time it takes to visually inspect a stimulus for all ages, shown by the finding that response time was shorter in far trials compared to both near and superimposed ones.

Finally, the lack of a correlation between imagery and according visuo-spatial memory may suggest that visuo-spatial memory is not required for both image generation and maintenance tasks. Alternatively, it may indicate that visuo-spatial recognition may lack sensitivity and not be the most suitable comparator to image generation and maintenance, see [ 31 , 32 ] for associating recall with recognition. Therefore, in Experiment 2 a measure of visuo-spatial recall was introduced. Experiment 1 examined the precision with which images are generated and maintained.

The aim of Experiment 2 was to compare the ability to coordinate mental and real images. Image generation and maintenance were measured by the precision with which a second visible object was manipulated within the context of the first imagined object imagery trials , compared to how the second object was manipulated when the first image was also visible perception control trials. As in Experiment 1, the crucial difference between image generation and maintenance was that once the image had been memorized, in generation trials participants received a 30 seconds distractor task in order to eliminate any short-term memory residuals [ 28 ].

In image maintenance trials there was no distractor task and the image had to be maintained for ms. Additionally, as before visuo-spatial memory was assessed. Instead of recognising the location of each object Experiment 1 , in the current experiment participants recalled the location of each object by dragging and dropping the stimulus onto its original place. Further, comparison between imagery and visuo-spatial memory performance allowed a check that the image generation and maintenance tasks required mental imagery and not just visuo-spatial memory. All participants completed both the image generation and the image maintenance tasks in the same session, with task order counterbalanced within each age group.

The stimuli comprised two sets of 6 pairs of stimuli taken from those used in Experiment 1 and each participant completed 12 trials. As in Experiment 1 the program recorded response times reaction time from stimulus onset to pressing the return key and imagery-perception overlap as described below and memory scores. The procedure followed the same pattern as Experiment 1 with two modifications Fig 4. First, instead of judging whether a presented stimulus fell on an imaged one, participants were required to drag and drop a visible stimulus onto an imaged one imagery trials , before later dragging and dropping the same stimulus, but this time with both stimuli being visible perception control trials.

Hence, participants determined their own individual baseline positions for the stimuli in the perception control trials. Memory accuracy for each image was calculated as the distance in pixels from the centre point of the original image location to the centre point of the dropped image location again using Pythagoras theorem. Example of an image generation trial. Image maintenance followed the same pattern except that a blank screen was presented for ms instead of the distractor task. Outliers in response time and overlap i.

Lower scores indicate greater similarity between accuracy using mental images and real pictures.


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Figs 5 and 6 display age-related differences in image generation abilities. To examine age-related differences in processes underlying image generation compared to those involved in visual inspection and motor coordination dragging and dropping of a stimulus using the computer mouse , image generation and perception control response times were compared. A 2 trial: generation vs.

Memory scores were calculated in terms of overlap as before. Lower scores reflect more accurate memory. To explore whether image generation overlap depends on how well the visuo-spatial locations of the images are remembered, we conducted a correlational analysis between memory accuracy and image generation overlap.

Figs 5 and 6 display developmental differences in image maintenance abilities. Thus, at least by 8-years-of-age children maintained images as precisely as adults in this task Fig 5. To examine developmental processes underlying image maintenance beyond processes underlying visual inspection and motor coordination, image maintenance and perception control response times were compared.

A 2 trial: maintenance vs. Findings suggest that image maintenance processes go beyond visual inspection of a stimulus and the motoric components of the task for all ages. We compared precision on the image generation and image maintenance tasks with a 5 age group: 4-, vs. Thus, as in Experiment 1, response time differences may reflect the time taken accessing long-term memory for information about what to image image generation in addition to holding an image online image maintenance.

This research aimed to examine the precision with which children from 4 years up to adulthood generate and maintain mental images Experiment 1 and their accuracy coordinating mental images compared to visually perceived objects Experiment 2. Findings from Experiment 1 suggest that the precision with which images are generated and maintained undergoes significant development over the preschool period.

By modifying methods from Kosslyn et al. Hence our findings are more in-line with research that reported even 3-year-olds are capable of using mental imagery for reasoning and problem solving, although they tend not to do so spontaneously and require instructions and support in order to use their imagination [ 17 , 18 , 33 ]. Importantly, what the current findings add is that not only can young children use mental imagery when instructed to do so but both their accuracy in a task requiring image generation and maintenance and the ability to coordinate real with imaged images increases with age, with 4-year-olds showing basic imagery abilities.

Age-related advances in image maintenance abilities that we observed occur at an earlier age than reported improvements in visuo-spatial working memory span. Image maintenance may be regarded as a critical function of visuo-spatial working memory [ 34 ]. Thus, improvements on image maintenance may precede processes required for visuo-spatial working memory span tasks.


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Kail [ 8 ] argues that mental imagery actually predicts spatial memory span, and thus improvements in mental imagery may facilitate improvements in spatial memory abilities. The current finding of developments in image maintenance over preschool prior to reported later developments in visuo-spatial working memory span [ 38 ] and the relation between imagery performance and memory performance Experiment 2 may support this claim.

In contrast to image maintenance which relies on short-term memory, image generation involves generating a previously seen image from long-term memory. Their task required children to generate an upper-case version when cued with a lower-case letter, while in our study participants were cued verbally to imagine a previously presented image. Both of these measures of image generation require that participants generate an image from memory.

Both also require generating reproductive images, a term first used by [ 20 ], that is, evoking images for objects or events that are already known, which is possible at a younger age than transformed images. Future work should extend the present methodologies to examine the developmental trajectory of transformed image abilities, and at which age children can produce these types of images with adult-like precision.

Can we rule out the possibility that the present tasks are measures of visuo-spatial memory rather than visuo-spatial mental imagery? To explore the relation between imagery and spatial memory for the image, after the imagery trials had been completed we asked participants to recognize and recall the spatial locations of each of the images. Memory trials were examined after all imagery trials, yet even after this relatively long period, performance on the visuo-spatial recognition and recall tasks remained high.

In Experiment 1 there was no relation between imagery accuracy and visuo-spatial recognition. However, the comparison of recognition visuo-spatial memory and recall image generation and maintenance may not have been appropriate [ 31 ]. Our finding that visuo-spatial recall Experiment 2 correlated with the ability to coordinate a visible image with an imaged one supports this and suggests that the difficulty of the image generation and maintenance tasks lies in visuo-spatial memory. Weakly stored visuo-spatial locations may have contributed to poorer imagery performance.

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That is, for our visuo-spatial imagery tasks a lack of spatial memory may make it difficult to impose an image onto the imagined object, even if the shape and resolution of the imagined object were generated precisely. However, the findings of different developmental trajectories for each imagery task and visuo-spatial memory task suggest that the imagery tasks demand more than visuo-spatial memory. Specifically, in both visuo-spatial recognition and recall tasks only 4-year-olds differed from each of the age groups whereas image generation and maintenance performance continued to improve with age, particularly between 4- and 8 years.

Thus, memory of the spatial location is necessary but not sufficient to generate and maintain the correct size and resolution of an image. The current research also adds to our understanding of development of spatial cognition. Research on visuo-spatial cognition indicates that basic spatial coding abilities are present in infancy [ 39 ].

However, location memory undergoes significant changes from toddlerhood into adulthood.

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Geometric biases in how children categorise space occur when younger children form large geometric categories and are biased towards the centre of the space e. For example, 7-year-old children replace objects into their original locations with significantly less accuracy than older children and adults, suggesting increasing precision in metric location estimation [ 42 ].

The current findings suggest that additionally, on a local level, the precision with which the shape and resolution of remembered visual stimuli are generated and maintained in their visuo-spatial location undergoes significant changes over the primary school period. Moreover, the extent of the accuracy of coordinating mental images compared to visual images increases particularly over the preschool period.

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Research on encoding spatial object relations, suggests that even infants are able to encode basic spatial relations between objects [ 43 ] and by 4 years children encode extent in absence of frame of reference [ 44 , 45 ]. The current findings add that encoding spatial relations is also possible between mental and visual images. In sum, this is the first investigation to demonstrate basic image generation and maintenance abilities in 4-year-olds. Importantly, the precision with which they generate and maintain visuo-spatial mental images undergoes significant developments over the early primary school period.

Thus, in addition to previous research that has shown that mental imagery aids cognitive functioning, the current research suggests that children can accurately generate and maintain their remembered visuo-spatial mental images and coordinate mental and visually perceived images in preschool age. Performed the experiments: MW KM. Browse Subject Areas? Click through the PLOS taxonomy to find articles in your field.

Experiment 1 The aim of Experiment 1 was to examine developments in image generation and maintenance. Design All participants completed both the image generation and the image maintenance tasks alongside two other imagery tasks scanning and rotation , reported elsewhere, either in the same session year-olds and adults , across 2 sessions 6- and 8-year-olds or across 4 sessions 4-year-olds.

There were five phases for each image generation and maintenance in the following order: Study : Participants viewed a stimulus e. To enhance visuo-spatial encoding, a 3 mm wide frame appeared on the border of the screen, highlighting the border. Stimuli and frame appeared in flashing rotating rainbow colours to enhance perceptual encoding and avoid after image effects.

In the image generation task , to eliminate visual short-term memory residuals and ensure that images had to be regenerated on the next phase, the participant was given a second age-appropriate distractor task counting for the 4-year-olds and mathematical calculations of increasing complexity for the older children and adults.

This method is commonly applied in memory research to tap into long-term memory processes [ 28 ]. In the image maintenance task no distractor was given, and instead participants were simply required to retain the image for ms light load or ms heavy load during which they were presented with a blank screen. Test image generation or image maintenance : A new image e. Phases 1 — 3 were repeated with the remaining stimuli pairs of that set, with the order of presentation randomised.

The nearer the image appeared to the study image superimposed versus near versus far the finer grained the generation of the shape and resolution of the image required to answer correctly. In total, there were 6 test trials for image generation 2 far, 2 near, and 2 superimposed , and 12 trials for image maintenance 6 ms trials comprising: 2 far, 2 near, and 2 superimposed; 6 ms trials comprising: 2 far, 2 near, and 2 superimposed. Type of trial near, far, superimposed appeared in random order with each task. Memory assessment : After all image generation or maintenance test trials had been completed participants were asked to recognize the locations of each object, assessing the memory for each original study image.

Participants were presented with 4 images of the same kind e. The task was to select the one in the correct position. Images were presented in the same order in which they were shown earlier. Perception control : As a final check on whether children had understood the task, perceptual control trials were administered. This phase followed exactly the same pattern as the test phase 3 , except that both images were visible on the screen when the participant judged whether the second image e.

Results are not presented as accuracy was at ceiling for all ages. Download: PPT. Results and Discussion Experiment 1 Outliers in response time, twice the mean of the age group in a particular trial far, near, superimposed , were removed 6-year-olds: 1 data point; year-olds: 3 data points. Image generation Fig 2 shows the mean proportion of errors and the mean response times in the image generation trials.

Fig 2. Image generation proportional error rate bar chart and mean response time in milliseconds line chart and mean standard error across all ages as a function of trial type. Error rate. Response time. Visuo-spatial memory versus image generation. Image Maintenance Fig 3 shows the mean proportion of errors and mean response times in the image maintenance trials. Fig 3. Image maintenance proportional error rate bar chart and mean response time in milliseconds line chart and mean standard error across all ages as a function of trial type.

Visuo-spatial memory versus image maintenance. Image generation versus image maintenance performance To directly compare error rates and response times in image generation and maintenance two 5 age: 4-, vs. Experiment 2 Experiment 1 examined the precision with which images are generated and maintained.

Design All participants completed both the image generation and the image maintenance tasks in the same session, with task order counterbalanced within each age group. Materials and Procedure The stimuli comprised two sets of 6 pairs of stimuli taken from those used in Experiment 1 and each participant completed 12 trials. Results and Discussion Experiment 2 Outliers in response time and overlap i. Image generation Figs 5 and 6 display age-related differences in image generation abilities.

Fig 5. Image generation and image maintenance overlap scores and mean standard error for each age group. Fig 6. Mean response times for image generation and image maintenance tasks and mean standard error for each age group. Response time generation-perception To examine age-related differences in processes underlying image generation compared to those involved in visual inspection and motor coordination dragging and dropping of a stimulus using the computer mouse , image generation and perception control response times were compared.

Visuo-spatial memory versus generation overlap Memory scores were calculated in terms of overlap as before. Image maintenance Figs 5 and 6 display developmental differences in image maintenance abilities. Response time maintenance-perception To examine developmental processes underlying image maintenance beyond processes underlying visual inspection and motor coordination, image maintenance and perception control response times were compared.

Image generation versus image maintenance performance We compared precision on the image generation and image maintenance tasks with a 5 age group: 4-, vs. General Discussion This research aimed to examine the precision with which children from 4 years up to adulthood generate and maintain mental images Experiment 1 and their accuracy coordinating mental images compared to visually perceived objects Experiment 2.

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Eye movements and psychological functions: International views. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum; Why do ambiguous figures reverse? Acta Psychologica. The development of ambiguous figure perception. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development. View Article Google Scholar 8. Kail R.

Processing time, imagery, and spatial memory.


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