Spatial ability tests are often interpreted as measuring facility with imagined spatial transformations of objects. But some spatial ability tests can be solved by analytic strategies as well as imagery transformation strategies. In the present study, participants gave verbal protocols while completing items on the Vandenberg and Kuse (Perceptual & Motor Skills, 4, 599–604, 1978) mental rotation test, and/or reported the strategies they had used on the test. Most participants used both imagery transformation and analytic strategies (i.e., feature-based, orientation-independent strategies) to solve the test items. Use of one analytic strategy, the global-shape strategy, was positively correlated with accuracy. Specifically, some of the most successful students used this strategy to eliminate answer choices, reducing the need for mental imagery. Men outperformed women, as is typical on this test, and were more likely than women to use the global-shape strategy, in particular, and more holistic strategies, in general. These results argue against the mental rotation test as a measure of spatial imagery alone and suggest that the ability to discover and use more efficient analytic strategies may be an important additional component of what this test measures.
Psychonomic Bulletin & Review – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 14, 2017
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