Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 224, Issue 3, pp 447–454 | Cite as

Constraining movement alters the recruitment of motor processes in mental rotation

  • David Moreau
Research Article


Does mental rotation depend on the readiness to act? Recent evidence indicates that the involvement of motor processes in mental rotation is experience-dependent, suggesting that different levels of expertise in sensorimotor interactions lead to different strategies to solve mental rotation problems. Specifically, experts in motor activities perceive spatial material as objects that can be acted upon, triggering covert simulation of rotations. Because action simulation depends on the readiness to act, movement restriction should therefore disrupt mental rotation performance in individuals favoring motor processes. In this experiment, wrestlers and non-athletes judged whether pairs of three-dimensional stimuli were identical or different, with their hands either constrained or unconstrained. Wrestlers showed higher performance than controls in the rotation of geometric stimuli, but this difference disappeared when their hands were constrained. However, movement restriction had similar consequences for both groups in the rotation of hands. These findings suggest that expert’s advantage in mental rotation of abstract objects is based on the readiness to act, even when physical manipulation is impossible.


Mental rotation Motor processes Sensorimotor expertise Embodiment Body posture 



The author is thankful to Dr. Peters, University of Guelph, Canada, for providing the MRT stimuli library (Peters and Battista 2008).

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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