Are allocentric spatial reference frames compatible with theories of Enactivism?
Theories of Enactivism propose an action-oriented approach to understand human cognition. So far, however, empirical evidence supporting these theories has been sparse. Here, we investigate whether spatial navigation based on allocentric reference frames that are independent of the observer’s physical body can be understood within an action-oriented approach. Therefore, we performed three experiments testing the knowledge of the absolute orientation of houses and streets towards north, the relative orientation of two houses and two streets, respectively, and the location of houses towards each other in a pointing task. Our results demonstrate that under time pressure, the relative orientation of two houses can be retrieved more accurately than the absolute orientation of single houses. With infinite time for cognitive reasoning, the performance of the task using house stimuli increased greatly for the absolute orientation and surpassed the slightly improved performance in the relative orientation task. In contrast, with streets as stimuli participants performed under time pressure better in the absolute orientation task. Overall, pointing from one house to another house yielded the best performance. This suggests, first, that orientation and location information about houses are primarily coded in house-to-house relations, whereas cardinal information is deduced via cognitive reasoning. Second, orientation information for streets is preferentially coded in absolute orientations. Thus, our results suggest that spatial information about house and street orientation is coded differently and that house orientation and location is primarily learned in an action-oriented way, which is in line with an enactive framework for human cognition.
Most of all, we would like to thank all the people who helped with recording and preparing the stimuli. Especially, we thank Antonia Kaiser and Annete Aumeistere, who helped a lot with the recordings.
Author contribution statement
CG, SUK, and TM wrote the main manuscript. SUK wrote the revision of the manuscript and provided new figures and tables for the revised paper. PK, CG, and TM proofread and iteratively improved the revised manuscript. SUK and CG recorded the experimental data. CG implemented the study and analyzed the data. PK suggested the study design and procedures for analysis and supervised the study.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
This work was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program, H2020-FETPROACT-2014, SEP: 210141273, ID: 641321 socSMCs.
Human and animal rights statement
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Institutional and National Research Committees.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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