Spatial updating across environments

Ranxiao Frances Wang, James R. Brockmole, Rashad A. Abdul-Salaam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spatial updating refers to the process that computes the egocentric directions and distances of targets as one moves. Self-movements cause a change in the spatial relationship between oneself and the whole world and, thus, everything needs to be updated to maintain proper orientation. However, Wang (1999) suggested that the spatial updating system may have a limited capacity and not all targets in the environment are updated at the same time. Two experiments tested this hypothesis by investigating the updating process with respect to two environments (room & campus). Participants learned 5 targets inside a lab room and were blindfolded. Then they re-learned 5 familiar campus buildings with respect to their current position. Afterwards, they were instructed to turn with respect to one environment ("updating" and then tested on their knowledge of the target directions in the other, "non-updated", environment. One group turned to face the 5 room targets in a random order, and then pointed to the room targets followed by the campus targets. The other group turned to face the campus targets and then pointed to the campus targets followed by the room targets. For the room targets, participants were equally fast and accurate whether they were "updated" (after turning in room) or "non-updated" (after turning in campus). However, for the campus targets, participants were slower and less accurate after they turned in the room comparing to after they turned in campus, suggesting the campus targets were only updated when participants were explicitly instructed to do so (turn with respect to campus). Control experiment suggested this asymmetry was not a result of switching between two environments alone. These results suggest that only the immediate surroundings were automatically updated, while more remote environments were not updated unless under demand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)420a
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems

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