Spatial versus object visualizers: a new characterization of visual cognitive style

Mem Cognit. 2005 Jun;33(4):710-26. doi: 10.3758/bf03195337.


The visual system processes object properties (such as shape and color) and spatial properties (such as location and spatial relations) in distinct systems, and neuropsychological evidence reveals that mental imagery respects this distinction. The findings reported in this article demonstrate that verbalizers typically perform at an intermediate level on imagery tasks, whereas visualizers can be divided into two groups. Specifically, scores on spatial and object imagery tasks, along with a visualizer-verbalizer cognitive style questionnaire, identified a group of visualizers who scored poorly on spatial imagery tasks but excelled on object imagery tasks. In contrast, a second group of visualizers scored high on spatial imagery tasks but poorly on object imagery tasks. The results also indicate that object visualizers encode and process images holistically, as a single perceptual unit, whereas spatial visualizers generate and process images analytically, part by part. In addition, we found that scientists and engineers excel in spatial imagery and prefer spatial strategies, whereas visual artists excel in object imagery and prefer object-based strategies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cognition*
  • Color Perception*
  • Female
  • Form Perception*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Space Perception*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Visual Perception*