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Representation of space: image-like or sensorimotor?

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image of Spatial Vision
For more content, see Multisensory Research and Seeing and Perceiving.

We investigate the relation between the physical world and its mental representation in the 'cognitive map', and test if this representation is image-like and complies with the laws of Euclidean geometry. We have developed a new experimental technique using 'impossible' virtual environments (VE) to directly influence the representational development. Subjects explore a number of VEs — some 'normal', others with severe violations of Euclidean metrics or planar topology. We check if these manipulated properties cause problems in navigation performance. A consistent VE should be easily represented mentally in a map-like fashion, while a VE with severe violations should prove difficult. Surprisingly, we found no substantial influence of the impossible VEs on navigation performance, and forced-choice tests showed little evidence that subjects were aware of manipulations. This suggests that the representation does not resemble a two-dimensional image-like map. Alternatives to consider are sensorimotor and graph-like representations.

Affiliations: 1: Cognitive Neuroinformatics, University of Bremen, FB3, University of Bremen, P.O. Box 330 440, 28334 Bremen, Germany.; 2: Cognitive Neuroinformatics, University of Bremen, FB3, University of Bremen, P.O. Box 330 440, 28334 Bremen, Germany


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