How Are the Locations of Objects in the Environment Represented in Memory?
This chapter summarizes a new theory of spatial memory. According to the theory, when people learn the locations of objects in a new environment, they interpret the spatial structure of that environment in terms of a spatial reference system. Our current conjecture is that a reference system intrinsic to the collection of objects is used. Intrinsic axes or directions are selected using egocentric (e.g., viewing perspective) and environmental (e.g., walls of the surrounding room) cues. The dominant cue is egocentric experience. The reference system selected at the first view is typically not updated with additional views or observer movement. However, if the first view is misaligned but a subsequent view is aligned with natural and salient axes in the environment, a new reference system is selected and the layout is reinterpreted in terms of this new reference system. The chapter also reviews evidence on the orientation dependence of spatial memories and recent results indicating that two representations may be formed when people learn a new environment; one preserves interobject spatial relations and the other comprises visual memories of experienced views.
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