Spatial Frameworks for Perceived Environments.
Final rept. 1 May 94-30 Apr 97,
NORTHEASTERN UNIV BOSTON MA DEPT OF PSYCHOLOGY
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Research completed under this grant has led to the discovery of two mental frames for representing space. One is the spatial framework, based on the egocentric body axes, and the other is intrinsic computation, based on analysis of body sides from an external perspective. Experiments demonstrated that spatial frameworks are used in discourse comprehension and memory for physical scenes. Intrinsic computation was observed in perception of model scenes. The current research extends this program by exploring the conditions under which people use spatial frameworks versus intrinsic computation. Experiments determined whether diagrams and models induce or favor different mental representations. Diagrams were studied because they are representational but also have their own spatial properties. A second question was whether the spatial framework and intrinsic computation analyses different processes for expressing spatial knowledge in memory versus perception. Previous research observed spatial frameworks in memory, suggesting that it is a general representation for spatial memory. In contrast, intrinsic computation has been observed in perception of observed scenes. Results of the current research indicate that people employ spatial frameworks for memory of 3D models and intrinsic computation for both memory and perception of diagrams. Instructions to use a given frame alters peoples performance. The kind of depiction and task favors a particular frame, but the use of mental frames is under strategic control. A second series of experiments explored how physical asymmetry of body axes produces differential accessibility, and whether functional laterality plays a role in determining the accessibility of leftright locations relative to other directions. It was found that differences in accessibility are not produced by a decision process for distinguishing directional p