Memory & Cognition

, Volume 46, Issue 8, pp 1278–1286 | Cite as

Selection of macroreference frames in spatial memory

  • Jonathan W. KellyEmail author
  • Zachary D. Siegel
  • Lori A. Sjolund
  • Marios N. Avraamides


Spatial memories are often hierarchically organized with different regions of space represented in unique clusters within the hierarchy. Each cluster is thought to be organized around its own microreference frame selected during learning, whereas relationships between clusters are organized by a macroreference frame. Two experiments were conducted in order to better understand important characteristics of macroreference frames. Participants learned overlapping spatial layouts of objects within a room-sized environment before performing a perspective-taking task from memory. Of critical importance were between-layout judgments thought to reflect the macroreference frame. The results indicate that (1) macroreference frames characterize overlapping spatial layouts, (2) macroreference frames are used even when microreference frames are aligned with one another, and (3) macroreference frame selection depends on an interaction between the global macroaxis (defined by characteristics of the layout of all learned objects), the relational macroaxis (defined by characteristics of the two layouts being related on a perspective-taking trial), and the learning view. These results refine the current understanding of macroreference frames and document their broad role in spatial memory.


Spatial cognition Spatial memory Reference frames Hierarchical organization 

Supplementary material

13421_2018_836_MOESM1_ESM.docx (93 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 92 kb)


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan W. Kelly
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zachary D. Siegel
    • 1
  • Lori A. Sjolund
    • 1
  • Marios N. Avraamides
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  2. 2.University of CyprusNicosiaCyprus

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