A dissociation between object manipulation spatial ability and spatial orientation ability

Mem Cognit. 2001 Jul;29(5):745-56. doi: 10.3758/bf03200477.


We developed psychometric tests of spatial orientation ability, in which people are shown a two-dimensional array of objects, imagine taking a perspective within the array, and indicate the direction to a target object from this perspective. Patterns of errors on these tests were consistent with experimental studies of perspective taking. Characteristic errors and verbal protocols supported the validity of the perspective-taking tests, suggesting that people encoded the objects in the display with respect to a body-centered coordinate system when the imagined perspective was more than 90 degrees different from the orientation of the display. By comparing alternative models in a confirmatory factor analysis, we found that the ability to mentally rotate and manipulate an imagined object (as measured by tests of spatial visualization and spatial relations) and the ability to reorient the imagined self (as measured by the perspective-taking tests) are separable spatial abilities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aptitude*
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination*
  • Male
  • Orientation*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Psychometrics
  • Reference Values
  • Space Perception*