Theories of spatial representations and reference frames: What can configuration errors tell us?

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The issue of reference frame is central to theories of spatial representations. Various classifications have been made for different types of reference frames, along with prototypical research paradigms to distinguish between them. This article focuses on the configuration error paradigm proposed by Wang and Spelke (Cognition 77:215-250, 2000) that has been used to examine the nature of the spatial representations underlying object localization during self-movement. Three basic models of spatial memory and spatial updating are discussed, as well as the assumptions behind the configuration error paradigm, to distinguish between static representations, such as the traditional allocentric cognitive map and the egocentric snapshots, and dynamic representations, such as the egocentric updating system. Recent experimental findings are reexamined and shown to be consistent with multiple models, among which the egocentric-updating-and-reload model with an enduring egocentric component provides the simplest interpretations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-587
Number of pages13
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Cognitive map
  • Configuration error
  • Egocentric updating
  • Reference frame
  • Snapshot

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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