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  • Cited by 54
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
June 2012
Print publication year:
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Book description

The ability to navigate across town, comprehend an animated display of the functioning of the human heart, view complex multivariate data on a company's website, or to read an architectural blueprint and form a three-dimensional mental picture of a house are all tasks involving visuospatial thinking. The field of visuospatial thinking is a relatively diverse interdisciplinary research enterprise. An understanding of visuospatial thinking, and in particular, how people represent and process visual and spatial information, is relevant not only to cognitive psychology but also education, geography, architecture, medicine, design computer science/artificial intelligence, semiotics and animal cognition. The goal of this book, first published in 2005, is to present a broad overview of research on visuospatial thinking that can be used by researchers as well as students interested in this topic in both basic research and applied/naturalistic contexts.


' … a wonderful book for anyone who subscribers to the cognitive psychology paradigm.'

Source: American Journal of Psychology

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  • 8 - Mapping the Understanding of Understanding Maps
    pp 295-333
  • View abstract


    People conceive of different spaces differently, depending on the functions they serve. This chapter considers the space of the body, space surrounding the body, space of navigation, and space of external representations, such as diagrams and graphs. Representations of the space of the body allow us to know what the parts of our bodies can do, where they are, what is impinging on them, and, importantly, how to interpret the bodies of others. The space around the body is decomposed into the six regions projecting from the six surfaces of the body. The space of navigation is the space of potential travel. It serves to guide us as we walk, drive, fly about in the world. The space of external representations considered here is typically space on paper meant to represent an actual space. External visuospatial representations bear many similarities to those that reside in the mind.
  • 9 - Spatial Situation Models
    pp 334-382
  • View abstract


    This chapter explores what is known about mental imagery, and about visual imagery in particular. It reviews some of the findings to make clear visual images do function in important ways as if they were mental pictures, and that the processes of imaging do resemble for actual seeing. The chapter presents data showing that visual imagery relies heavily on brain areas ordinarily involved in visual perception, and points the way toward the conception of visual imagery that avoids the problematic notions of mind's eye and mental pictures. Differences between the discoveries that can be made from mental images and those that can be made from actual pictures are discussed. After an overview on the question of just how "visual" visual images truly are, the chapter explores the possibility that some tasks that might seem to rely on visual imagery may in fact rely on some other form of representation.
  • 10 - Design Applications of Visual Spatial Thinking
    pp 383-425
  • The Importance of Frame of Reference
  • View abstract


    Neuropsychological evidence offers a great deal to the understanding of normal cognition. This chapter focuses on the techniques and systematic investigations of both individual case studies and of groups of individuals who exhibit disorders of visuospatial working memory following damage to the brain. It addresses the possibility that working memory is best viewed as a multiple component system, and that within such a system, there might be further fractionation between visual and spatial resources with performance on some spatial tasks requiring the use of executive functions. This chapter talks about the relationship between visuospatial working memory, and other parts of the cognitive system by exploring whether or not visuospatial working memory acts as a gateway between perception and long-term memory. It then considers the impairments of different aspects of visuospatial working memory that arise from the phenomena of unilateral spatial neglect and of cortical blindness.
  • 11 - The Comprehension of Quantitative Information in Graphical Displays
    pp 426-476
  • View abstract


    This chapter reviews research on individual differences in spatial cognition from a somewhat historical perspective. It commences with a review of the factor analysis literature, which dominated early research in spatial abilities. Then, the chapter considers research on the analysis of spatial abilities from the perspective of cognitive psychology. Individual differences in large-scale or environmental spatial abilities such as wayfinding and navigation are examined. Finally, it considers some of the functions of spatial ability in occupational and academic performance. The research reviewed in this chapter provides strong evidence that spatial ability is differentiated from general intelligence. It shows that spatial ability is not a single, undifferentiated construct, but composed of several separate abilities, such as spatial visualization, flexibility of closure, spatial memory, and perceptual speed. Recent research has also begun to analyze complex tasks involved in these professions in terms of their demand on spatial skills.
  • 12 - Multimedia Learning: GuidingVisuospatial Thinking with Instructional Animation
    pp 477-508
  • View abstract


    This chapter discusses sex differences that are found in a variety of tests of visuospatial abilities ranging from standardized paper-and-pencil or computerized tasks to tests of way-finding ability and geographical knowledge. Visuospatial information processing involves interplay of multiple cognitive processes, including visual and spatial sensation and perception, a limited capacity visuospatial working memory, and longer-term memories where visual and spatial information may be encoded in many ways. Certain visuospatial and mathematical abilities are related, and visuospatial sex differences have been suggested to contribute to observed sex differences in mathematics performance. Many cultures show similar patterns of visuospatial sex differences, a finding that seems to support theories based on the principles of evolutionary psychology. The chapter explores how factors rooted in biology, specifically the what-where visual systems, hemispheric lateralization, and exposure to sex steroid hormones, may relate to visuospatial skill and to sex differences in those abilities.


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