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Sentence memorability reveals the mental representations involved in processing spatial descriptions

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2011
JournalThinking and Reasoning
Journal number1
Volume17
Number of pages27
Pages30-56
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Enhanced memorability for first-sentence information was used as a probe to examine the mental representations underpinning the processing of spatial descriptions, with a focus on analogue, mental model representations versus propositional representations. In Experiment 1 rotating the visual layout of a spatial description slowed its recognition, a result that is strongly indicative of an analogue representation. In contrast, the surface details of spatial descriptions were recalled after 2 weeks, with advantages for information that was repeated or mentioned in first sentences. Although suggestive of propositional representations, these latter findings are not decisive. In Experiment 2, however, the determinacy of spatial relations influenced the recognition of their descriptions (indicative of analogue representations), but first-sentence information aided only the recall of the original text and not the spatial layout (indicative of propositional representations). Overall, these results are consistent with the existence of separate and non-integrated analogue and propositional representations of spatial information that trade computational efficiency for task appropriateness.