Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 681–687 | Cite as

Does spatial information impact immediate verbatim recall of verbal navigation instructions?

  • Vivian I. Schneider
  • Alice F. Healy
  • James A. Kole
  • Immanuel Barshi
Brief Report


The present study addresses the issue of whether spatial information impacts immediate verbatim recall of verbal navigation instructions. Subjects heard messages instructing them to move within a two-dimensional depiction of a three-dimensional space consisting of four stacked grids displayed on a computer screen. They repeated the instructions orally and then followed them manually by clicking with a mouse on the grids. Two groups with identical instructions were compared; they differed only in whether the starting position was indicated before or after the instructions were given and repeated, with no differences in the manual movements to be made. Accuracy on both the oral repetition and manual movement responses was significantly higher when the starting position was indicated before the instructions. The results are consistent with the proposal that there is only a single amodal mental representation, rather than distinct verbal and nonverbal representations, of navigation instructions. The advantage for the before condition was found even for the oral repetition responses, implying that the creation of the amodal representation occurred immediately, while the instructions were being held in working memory. In practical terms, the findings imply that being able to form a mental representation of the movement path while being given verbal navigation instructions should substantially facilitate memory for the instructions and execution of them.


Navigation and spatial memory Human memory and learning Mental models Amodal mental representation 



This research was supported in part by National Aeronautics and Space Administration Grants NCC2-1310, NNA07CN59A, NNX10AC87A, and NNX14AB75A. The authors thank Antonia Hamilton and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions concerning an earlier version of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

13423_2017_1379_MOESM1_ESM.docx (48 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 48 kb)


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vivian I. Schneider
    • 1
  • Alice F. Healy
    • 1
  • James A. Kole
    • 2
  • Immanuel Barshi
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA
  2. 2.School of Psychological SciencesUniversity of Northern ColoradoGreeleyUSA
  3. 3.Human Systems Integration DivisionNASA, Ames Research CenterMoffett FieldUSA

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