Human navigation in well-known environments is guided by stored memory representations of spatial information. In three experiments (N = 43) we investigated the role of different spatial reference systems when accessing information about familiar objects at different locations in the city in which the participants lived. Our results indicate that two independent reference systems underly the retrieval of spatial knowledge. Environmental characteristics, e.g., the streets at an intersection, determine which headings are easier to imagine at a given location and lead to differences in accessibility of spatial information (orientation-specific behavior). In addition, access to spatial information depends on the relative direction of a location with respect to the imagined heading, such that information about locations imagined in front of oneself is easier to access than about locations towards the back. This influence of an egocentric reference system was found for environmental knowledge as well as map-based knowledge. In light of these reference system effects, position-dependent models of spatial memory for large-scale environments are discussed. To account for the simultaneous effect of an environmental and an egocentric reference system, we present a 2-level model of spatial memory access.
Spatial Cognition and Computation – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 30, 2004
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