The goal of the proposed project is to examine how the locations of the objects that constitute our environments are represented in memory and how such memories are used to support our actions in space. During the last three decades of research this topic has received a lot of attention by scientists from many disciplines, and over the years a number of theories have been formulated. However, our understanding of the nature and functioning of spatial memory still continues to change. More importantly, there exist empirical findings from two concentrations of research within spatial cognition that seem conflicting at first glance. On one hand, studies examining the organizational structure of spatial memory have shown that memories are encoded using allocentric reference frames; that is reference frames that encode the spatial relations among the objects of an environment. On the other hand, studies focusing on how people stay oriented towards their surroundings during locomotion suggest that egocentric representations (i.e. representations coding self-to-object relations) are involved. Recent models of spatial cognition have attempted to reconcile these findings by proposing multiple systems for spatial memory. In this project we will carry our a series of experiments in an attempt to gather empirical data to test the predictions of various theoretical models including a biologically-plausible two-system account of spatial memory that we have recently proposed (Avraamides & Kelly, in press). Drawing heavily from the literature on Stimulus-Response compatibility, this account combines the use of egocentric and allocentric representations to account for a wealth of data from all areas of spatial cognition.
Call for proposal
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