Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Spatial Directions and Situation Model Organization

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Spatial Directions and Situation Model Organization

Article excerpt

Do spatial directions, such as "to the right," influence the integration and segregation of information into situation models? According to a single-framework hypothesis, spatial location serves as an event framework, and spatial directions serve as relational information within that framework but do not establish separate sublocation frameworks. Alternatively, according to a fragmented-framework hypothesis, spatial directions lead the larger framework to be broken down such that each direction is treated as a separate sublocation, thereby producing retrieval interference. In three experiments, people memorized sentences about objects in locations. The results support the fragmented-framework hypothesis. Control conditions ruled out explanations based on the ease of memorization, retrieval demands, or sentence complexity.

When people encounter a spatial direction within a larger spatial framework, such as "to the left in the library," how is the directional information handled? That is, if language serves as instructions for creating a situation model (Zwaan, 1999), what impact do spatial directions have on this process? A situation model is a mental representation of a described state of affairs that serves as a mental simulation of those events (e.g., Zwaan & Radvansky, 1998). Successful comprehension requires not only an adequate processing of the language itself, but also the creation of an appropriate representation of the events being described (Glenberg, Meyer, & Lindem, 1987), and language serves as a set of instructions for how to create these situation models (Zwaan, 1999). As such, it is important to understand how different types of language-spatial directions in this case-influence how these situation models are eventually constructed and organized.

In general, the spatial information that can be used to structure a situation model can be classified in two ways: spatial frameworks and spatial relations (Wyer & Radvansky, 1999). Spatial framework information is the region that serves as the bounds of an event, such as a building, room, or any well-defined, labeled area, such as park. In some sense, this is absolute spatial knowledge. The other type of spatial knowledge is spatial relational information. This is information that denotes the spatial interrelations of entities with respect to each other, such as something being to the right, left, above, and so on. So, in some sense, this is relative spatial knowledge.

These different types of spatial knowledge are thought to be captured by different aspects of situation models (Wyer & Radvansky, 1999). The spatial framework information establishes the boundaries of the event-the context in which the event unfolds. Spatial framework information is a basis of organizing situational information in memory (e.g., Radvansky, 1999a), influencing the access of knowledge about events, both in text (e.g., Morrow, Greenspan, & Bower, 1987) and in interactive situations (e.g., Radvansky & Copeland, 2006c), and shifts in spatial frameworks can disrupt reading (e.g., Zwaan, Radvansky, Hilliard, & Curiel, 1998).

In comparison, spatial relations capture the interrelations among entities within the spatial-temporal framework. These spatial relations convey the internal structure of elements within the framework. Spatial relation information can influence the availability of information from situation models. For example, information is differentially available along different internal axes (Franklin & Tversky, 1990) and is influenced by the presence or absence of a functional relation between entities (Radvansky & Copeland, 2000).

This distinction between spatial framework and relational information parallels other work in the literature. For example, there is the difference between metric and categorical spatial knowledge (e.g., Huttenlocher, Hedges, & Duncan, 1991); the difference between intrinsic, relative, and absolute reference frames (e. …

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