Memory & Cognition

, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 1109–1116

Independent reference frames in human spatial memory: Body-centered and environmentcentered coding in near and far space


DOI: 10.3758/BF03201188

Cite this article as:
Woodin, M.E. & Allport, A. Mem Cogn (1998) 26: 1109. doi:10.3758/BF03201188


Our apparently seamless experience of the spatial environment seems to be derived from information coded across a variety of spatial reference frameworks, each tied to the metric of a different sensory or motor system. A fundamental distinction is that between body-centered and environmentcentered reference frameworks. This study reports the first clear evidence of a behavioral dissociation between body-centered and environment-centered coding in human adults. Subjects, seated in a rotating chair with closed eyes, were required to point to remembered, auditorily presented target locations. The subjects were rotated between the presentation and recall of targets. Targets were held stationary with respect to either body-centered or environment-centered spatial coordinates. Prior to recall, subjects were required to point to a series of prelearned distractor locations, which also remained fixed with reference either to the subject’s body or to the stationary environment. Memory for the target locations was selectively impaired when distractor locations were specified within the same spatial reference frame as the target, regardless of whether target and distractor locations were near to or distant from the subjects. In contrast, distractor locations specified in a different reference frame from that of the target had either little or no effect on memory for target locations.

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Experimental PsychologyOxford UniversityOxfordEngland