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Different Abilities Controlled by Visuospatial Processing


Visuospatial processing is controlled by specialized systems of working memory and is relatively independent of verbal processing. In addition, visual and spatial information also tend to be independently processed. These separate visual and spatial processes result in different cognitive abilities to be controlled by visuospatial processing. Cognitive abilities defined as small-scale visuospatial processing abilities are the most relevant for education in health and natural sciences. In this chapter, we describe several small-scale visuospatial abilities derived from two traditional lines of research: spatial ability and working memory. As such, we address the abilities of mental rotation, mental folding, field independence, spatial working memory, visual working memory, and dual visuospatial working memory. We also describe common tests to measure these abilities in science learning contexts, and give examples showing interactions between the tests. We finish by providing instructional implications and future research directions. Although in this chapter we show that the different abilities controlled by visuospatial processing are interrelated, by stressing their differences we are aiming to fill a research gap. As such, indicating the specific properties of these abilities may help future research on the most suitable ability for a given learning scenario about health and natural sciences.


  • Visuospatial processing
  • Visuo spatial executive working memory
  • Spatial ability
  • Mental rotation and mental folding
  • Small-scale ability

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Support from PIA-CONICYT Basal Funds for Centers of Excellence Project FB0003 is gratefully acknowledged. The first author is thankful to Enrique Castro and Mariana Poblete for their assistance.

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Correspondence to Juan C. Castro-Alonso .

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Castro-Alonso, J.C., Atit, K. (2019). Different Abilities Controlled by Visuospatial Processing. In: Castro-Alonso, J. (eds) Visuospatial Processing for Education in Health and Natural Sciences. Springer, Cham.

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