Human Spatial Memory: Remembering Where

Human Spatial Memory: Remembering Where

Human Spatial Memory: Remembering Where

Human Spatial Memory: Remembering Where

Synopsis

The chapters in Human Spatial Memory: Remembering Where present a fascinating picture of an everyday aspect of mental life that is as intriguing to people outside of academia as it is to scientists studying human cognition and behavior. The questions are as old as the study of mind itself: How do we remember where objects are located? How do we remember where we are in relation to other places? What is the origin and developmental course of spatial memory? What neural structures are involved in remembering where? How do we come to understand scaled-down versions of places as symbolic representations of actual places? Although the questions are old, some of the answers-in-progress are new, thanks to some innovative theorizing, solid experimental work, and revealing applications of new technologies, such as virtual environments and brain imaging techniques.

This volume includes a variety of theoretical, empirical, and methodological advances that invite readers to make their own novel connections between theory and research. Scholars who study spatial cognition can benefit from examining the latest from well-established experts, as well as milestone contributions from early-career researchers. This combination provides the reader with a sense of past, present, and future in terms of spatial memory research. Just as important, however, is the value of the volume as a touchstone resource for researchers who study perception, memory, or cognition but who are not concerned primarily with the spatial domain. All readers may find the fact that this volume violates the trend toward an ever-narrowing specialization refreshing. Chapters from cognitive psychologists are alongside chapters by developmentalists and neuroscientists; results from field studies are just pages away from those based on fMRI during observation of virtual displays. Thus, the book invites integrative examination across disciplines, research areas, and methodological approaches.

Excerpt

The study of spatial memory is innate to contemporary cognitive psychology. Historical routes from psychology's origins to today's study of spatial cognition are marked with familiar landmarks. At the time psychology differentiated itself from philosophy in the late 19th century, the concept of space had status similar to that of time and causality as central concerns of classical epistemology. There is clear evidence of early scientific interest in spatial memory as a phenomenon (Trowbridge, 1913). a few decades into the 20th century, spatial memory proved to be the definitive issue when competing groups of American learning theorists debated whether response hierarchies could satisfactorily explain complex phenomenon such as maze learning in rodents. With experimental evidence seasoned with good humor, Tolman (1948) presented a convincing case that even rats acquired an internal representation of place. the cognitive map was born, and in that catchy expression, cognitive psychology and space were linked for the long run.

While learning theorists were thusly engaged, other traditions on both sides of the Atlantic assumed mind's existence rather than debated its validity and proceeded to study its structure and ontogeny. the psychometric enterprise, typified by Guilford (Guilford & Zimmerman, 1941), began to map the spatial domain. Developmental theories, such as Piaget's (Piaget & Inhelder, 1956), addressed the matter of how the ability to represent spatial relations internally evolved over the course of childhood. By the time human information processing became cutting edge in American experimental psychology, spatial tasks derived from both the psychometric and cognitive-developmental traditions were available to yield the requisite accuracy and response time data. Chronometric analysis of performance on tasks derived from psychometric tests led to a rejuvenation of mental imagery study (Shepard & Metzler, 1971) and provided the foundation for process-based accounts of spatial abilities (Just & Carpenter, 1985). From this enterprise came some of the methods and materials used in the contemporary study of spatial working memory (e.g., Shah & Miyake, 1996).

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