On the relationship between trait autobiographical episodic memory and spatial navigation

Mem Cognit. 2021 Feb;49(2):265-275. doi: 10.3758/s13421-020-01093-7. Epub 2020 Oct 13.


Influential research has focused on identifying the common neural and behavioural substrates underlying episodic memory (the re-experiencing of specific details from past experiences) and spatial cognition, with some theories proposing that these are supported by the same mechanisms. However, the similarities and differences between these two forms of memory in humans require further specification. We used an individual-differences approach based on self-reported survey data collected in a large online study (n = 7,487), focusing on autobiographical episodic memory and spatial navigation and their relationship to object and spatial imagery abilities. Multivariate analyses replicated prior findings that autobiographical episodic memory abilities dissociated from spatial navigational abilities. Considering imagery, episodic autobiographical memory overlapped with imagery of objects, whereas spatial navigation overlapped with a tendency to focus on spatial schematics and manipulation. These results suggest that trait episodic autobiographical memory and spatial navigation correspond to distinct mental processes.

Keywords: Autobiographical memory; Episodic memory; Individual differences; Navigation; Visual imagery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall
  • Spatial Navigation*

Grants and funding