Mental Travel Primes Place Orientation in Spatial Recall

  • Kai Basten
  • Tobias Meilinger
  • Hanspeter A. Mallot
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 7463)


The interplay of spatial long-term and working memories and the role of oriented and orientation-independent representations is an important but poorly understood issue in spatial cognition. Using a novel priming paradigm, we demonstrate that spatial working memory codes of a given location depend on previous tasks such as mental travels and are thus situated in behavioural context. In two experiments, 136 passersby were asked to sketch an image of a highly familiar city square either without or with prior metal travel, i.e. an imaginated walk along a route crossing the square. With prior mental travel participants drew the sketch more often in the orientation of the imagined route and less often in the orientation found without prior mental travel. This indicates that participants adjusted or selected information from long-term memory according to the situational context. We suggest that orientation priming plays a role in path planning and may facilitate way-finding afterwards. Possible mechanisms of orientation priming are discussed with respect to theories of orientation dependence in spatial memory.


spatial cognition priming frame of reference working memory place recognition 


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kai Basten
    • 1
  • Tobias Meilinger
    • 2
  • Hanspeter A. Mallot
    • 1
  1. 1.Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, Department of BiologyUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany
  2. 2.Department of Human Perception, Cognition and ActionMax-Planck-Institute for Biological CyberneticsTübingenGermany

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