How Body Asymmetries Determine Accessibility in Spatial Frameworks

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Spatial frameworks are a class of spatial mentalmodel that code locations of objects relative to the body axes. Spatial frameworks predict accessibility of spatial relations from memory primarily on the basis of the relative asymmetry of the body axes, such that highly asymmetric axes lead to faster retrieval of information. The present research examined how bodily asymmetries affect retrieval. Experiment 1 contrasted two theoretical accounts. The Salience Account proposes that relative degrees of asymmetry render axes differentially salient, and hence differentially foregrounded in one's mental model. The Direction Decision Account proposes that an explicit decision process is necessary to access specific locations along body axes. The ease of the decision process presumably depends on the degree of asymmetry that exists to discriminate poles along a body axis. The spatial framework pattern of accessibility was observed both when subjects identified specific directions of objects and when subjects identified just the axis to which objects were associated, supporting the Salience Account. Experiment 2 investigated whether lateralization affects accessibility from spatial frameworks. Performance of highly lateralized individuals did not differ from that of weakly lateralized individuals.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 1999

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