Is the map in our head oriented north?

Julia Frankenstein, Betty J. Mohler, Heinrich H. Bülthoff, Tobias Meilinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

53 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We examined how a highly familiar environmental space-one's city of residence-is represented in memory. Twenty-six participants faced a photo-realistic virtual model of their hometown and completed a task in which they pointed to familiar target locations from various orientations. Each participant's performance was most accurate when he or she was facing north, and errors increased as participants' deviation from a north-facing orientation increased. Pointing errors and latencies were not related to the distance between participants' initial locations and the target locations. Our results are inconsistent with accounts of orientation-free memory and with theories assuming that the storage of spatial knowledge depends on local reference frames. Although participants recognized familiar local views in their initial locations, their strategy for pointing relied on a single, north-oriented reference frame that was likely acquired from maps rather than experience from daily exploration. Even though participants had spent significantly more time navigating the city than looking at maps, their pointing behavior seemed to rely on a north-oriented mental map.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-125
Number of pages6
JournalPsychological Science
Volume23
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Feb

Keywords

  • alignment
  • environmental space
  • local and global reference frames
  • map
  • orientation
  • reference frame
  • spatial memory
  • virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Is the map in our head oriented north?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    Frankenstein, J., Mohler, B. J., Bülthoff, H. H., & Meilinger, T. (2012). Is the map in our head oriented north? Psychological Science, 23(2), 120-125. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797611429467