Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 322–327 | Cite as

Spatial memories of virtual environments: How egocentric experience, intrinsic structure, and extrinsic structure interact

Brief Reports


Previous research has uncovered three primary cues that influence spatial memory organization: egocentric experience, intrinsic structure (object defined), and extrinsic structure (environment defined). In the present experiments, we assessed the relative importance of these cues when all three were available during learning. Participants learned layouts from two perspectives in immersive virtual reality. In Experiment 1, axes defined by intrinsic and extrinsic structures were in conflict, and learning occurred from two perspectives, each aligned with either the intrinsic or the extrinsic structure. Spatial memories were organized around a reference direction selected from the first perspective, regardless of its alignment with intrinsic or extrinsic structures. In Experiment 2, axes defined by intrinsic and extrinsic structures were congruent, and spatial memories were organized around reference axes defined by those congruent structures, rather than by the initially experienced view. The findings are discussed in the context of spatial memory theory as it relates to real and virtual environments.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Avraamides, M. N., & Kelly, J. W. (2005). Imagined perspective-changing within and across novel environments. In C. Freksa, B. Nebel, M. Knauff, & B. Krieg-Brückner (Eds.), Lecture notes in artificial intelligence: Spatial cognition IV (pp. 245–258). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  2. Diwadkar, V. A., & McNamara, T. P. (1997). Viewpoint dependence in scene recognition. Psychological Science, 8, 302–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Kelly, J. W., Avraamides, M. N., & Loomis, J. M. (2007). Sensorimotor alignment effects in the learning environment and in novel environments. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 33, 1092–1107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Lessels, S., & Ruddle, R. A. (2005). Movement around real and virtual cluttered environments. Presence: Teleoperators & Virtual Environments, 14, 580–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. McNamara, T. P. (2003). How are the locations of objects in the environment represented in memory? In C. Freksa, W. Brauer, C. Habel, & K. F. Wender (Eds.), Lecture notes in artificial intelligence: Spatial cognition III (pp. 174–191). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  6. McNamara, T. P., Rump, B., & Werner, S. (2003). Egocentric and geocentric frames of reference in memory of large-scale space. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 10, 589–595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Montello, D. R. (1991). Spatial orientation and the angularity of urban routes: A field study. Environment & Behavior, 23, 47–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Mou, W., & McNamara, T. P. (2002). Intrinsic frames of reference in spatial memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 28, 162–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Richardson, A. E., Montello, D. R., & Hegarty, M. (1999). Spatial knowledge acquisition from maps and from navigation in real and virtual environments. Memory & Cognition, 27, 741–750.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ruddle, R. A., & Lessels, S. (2006). For efficient navigational search, humans require full physical movement, but not a rich visual scene. Psychological Science, 17, 460–465.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Shelton, A. L., & McNamara, T. P. (1997). Multiple views of spatial memory. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 4, 102–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Shelton, A. L., & McNamara, T. P. (2001). Systems of spatial reference in human memory. Cognitive Psychology, 43, 274–310.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Valiquette, C. M., McNamara, T. P., & Labrecque, J. S. (2007). Biased representations of the spatial structure of navigable environments. Psychological Research, 71, 288–297.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Werner, S., & Schmidt, K. (1999). Environmental reference systems for large-scale spaces. Spatial Cognition & Computation, 1, 447–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Williams, B., Narasimham, G., Westerman, C., Rieser, J., & Bodenheimer, B. (2007). Functional similarities in spatial representations between real and virtual environments. ACM Transactions on Applied Perception, 4 (2, No. 12).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyVanderbilt UniversityTNNashville

Personalised recommendations