spatial cognition presentation

Today I gave an overview of spatial cognition research to undergrads from Psi Chi and others from the university community.  A basic summary of findings from studies of spatial abilities, focusing on mental rotation (because I like Tetris so much), embedded figures, and the like.  Much of which I’ve learned myself over the last few years of interacting with the folks from SILC and diving into new areas of spatial research.

I talked about the role of egocentric and allocentric perspectives on You Are Here maps.  Navigation made the list too.  Like the ways in which GPS usage affects brain activity.

We discussed a bit about spatial language, such as our tendency to associate “north” with the notion of up, and a place more difficult to access, and “south” with down, and easy. And the rare languages within the rare cultures of the world that maintain a geocentric grounding, so you can say, “Hand me the cup that’s sitting on the west side of the table” and everyone around you would know which one you meant. The NY Times had a good story on this a while back.

We aren’t doing any traditional psychology research on spatial abilities at Redlands. Rather we focus largely in the area of spatial relations, as described by Golledge and Stimson a while back.  Spatial relations = abilities to recognize spatial distributions and spatial patterns, to connect locations, to associate and correlate spatially distributed phenomena, to comprehend and use spatial hierarchies, to regionalize, to orientate to real-world frames of reference, to imagine maps from verbal descriptions, to sketch maps, to compare maps, and to overlay and dissolve maps. That’s more of what we do here.

So much to learn, so little time.

2 responses to “spatial cognition presentation

  1. I think there is much mathematics and neurology involved here. The brain is logically organized. They key is finding the algorithms that run it.

  2. You’re right, definitely relevance of spatial thinking to math, and of neuroscience to it all. Many people think only of geometry or trigonometry as being the spatial side of math, and there are some great activities focusing on this area. But it is actually so much more basic than than, beginning with the number line itself. It’s really interesting to see how spatially-minded math teachers design and use curriculum and materials to leverage the spatial learning!

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