Aging and Spatial Cognition: Current Status and New Directions for Experimental Researchers and Cognitive Neuropsychologists

  • Kathleen C. Kirasic
Part of the Human Neuropsychology book series (HN)


It is quite common for us humans to find ourselves in new and unfamiliar environments. Whether we encounter these environments by choice (e. g. traveling to a new city or country) or by accident (e. g. becoming lost), we attempt to make sense of the spatial arrangement of that large-scale environment and navigate successfully within it The cognitive mechanisms employed in the task of spatial wayfinding and orientation, whether it be a novel or familiar environment, has been a topic of study for many years (see Hart & Moore, 1973 and Siegel & White, 1975 for reviews). The majority of the empirical investigations have focused on the development of these skills in children or on the components of these skills in young adult populations (Cohen, 1985). The bulk of this work relied upon table top models of spatial arrays or paper and pencil measures of spatial knowledge (Horn & Cattell, 1966; Huttenlocher & Presson, 1973; Pick & Rieser, 1982). Only over the past 10 years has there been a concerted effort put forth to exam macrospatial (or large-scale) knowledge and behavior (Evans, Brennan, Skorpanich, & Held, 1984; Kirasic & Allen, 1985; Kirasic, in press; Walsh, Krauss, & Regnier, 1981). Again, however, most researchers in this area have worked with children and/or young adults (Allen, 1981; Cornell & Heth, 1982; Cohen & Cohen, 1982). Changes or lack of changes in macrospatial ability and macrospatial performance that accompany increasing age has only recently become an area of interest and study in cognitive psychology. It is the purpose of this chapter to provide a summary of what is known about spatial cognitive changes with age. Five major areas will be reviewed: 1) findings from the psychometric and experimental literature; 2) the spatial activities commonly engaged in by elderly adults; 3) the research focusing on spatial behavior in macrospatial environments; 4) the applicable neurological literature; and 5) some conclusions, implications, and questions for future research.


Mental Rotation Spatial Ability Elderly Adult Spatial Cognition Spatial Task 
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© Plenum Press, New York 1988

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  • Kathleen C. Kirasic

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